Older, but Not Weaker

Bone strength peaks by age 30 in humans. That is it…after that your bones get weaker. Muscle strength peaks at about 25 years old and plateaus until 35 years old. After that, you lose muscle strength. So what does that mean for the aging athlete?

Why do you need to maintain bone mass (strength)? Because weaker bones are more likely to break. The death rate after a hip fracture is14-58%. Studies show up 50% of people die within one year of breaking their hip. You don’t want to be one of these unfortunate victims of death by osteoporosis.

There are a few ways to maintain bone strength. First, it is important to reach your peak strength by developing good bones when you are young. You need to get adequate vitamin D and Calcium in your diet at all ages, but if you deprive your body of either of these at a younger age your bones will start out weak. Impact activities such as running or even walking build bone. Non-weight bearing activities like swimming do not build bone. Using weights and doing resistance exercises also helps build bone.

Similarly, building muscle is done through exercise and strength training. Each year after 35 years old, the average person loses 0.5-1% of their muscle mass. If you do not work out, you will get weaker. Even if you work-out, you will still lose strength but not as quickly.

For bones, the most important and common fractures are the hip and the wrist. Leg work-outs especially for the quads are key to maintaining the hip. I like squats, biking, walking and if able running. If any of these hurt, find out why and don’t do them. See your local orthopedist if you develop pain or swelling.

To strengthen your arms, biceps and triceps are important. If your forearms don’t get tired working out, add wrist flexions and extensions with light weights. Wrist fractures are very common in patients older than 65 years old and can be prevented in many people by strength training.

Unfortunately, a common consequence of weak bones is compression fractures of the spine. When older people say they are shrinking it is often due to collapse of the bones of the spine from osteoporosis. Core strengthening and impact exercises can help prevent these fractures.

At any age, you need to eat well and exercise. If you don’t do both, you will get older quicker. You will become frail and more likely to die at a younger age. This is up to you. If you develop pain, don’t give up but find out what the problem is. Have a good doctor you trust available to help you maintain your good health.

By Rick Weinstein, MD, MBA

Director Orthopedic Surgery Westchester Sport & Spine at White Plains Hospital

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

It seems like every year there is a new diet craze or a new way of eating. Many people are searching for the magic bullet for weight loss, and they go from diet to diet hoping that one works. The “new” craze is the ketogenic or keto diet. What is the ketogenic diet, and is it right for you?

The keto diet is based on scientific evidence and has been utilized for almost 90 years. It was originally created for patients with epilepsy since the keto diet mimics fasting, which has been shown to reduce the number of seizures for patients.  It is a very low carbohydrate diet which enables the body to use dietary fat and body fat storage as the primary fuel source for energy, rather than carbohydrates.  The body believes it is fasting because of the very low carbohydrate intake, and it starts to burn fat for energy. ”Ketosis” is a physiological mechanism that occurs in the body when adequate carbohydrates are not available to burn for energy, and instead, the body burns fat for energy, producing ketones as a by-product. When ketones rise in the body, it enters into ketosis, which is a fat-burning metabolic state that results in weight loss.

The diet works by severely limiting the number of carbohydrates that you consume to 10% of total calories. Carbs should come predominantly from leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. For most people, this is about 30-50 net grams of carbohydrates, but some people get the best results on only 20g of carbohydrates. 20% of the diet should be from protein, especially fish high in omega-3s and grass fed and organic meats. All processed meat should be avoided. The remaining 70% should consist of healthy fats from avocados, nuts, seeds, coconuts, and medium-chain triglyceride oils. Dairy is allowed, but it should be limited. All sugar, grains, processed foods, and alcohol should be avoided.

In addition to weight loss, the keto diet has been shown to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes and to improve blood sugar management. It also protects against cancer, decreases the risk of heart disease, and protects against Alzheimer’s and other neurological conditions. It may also increase mental focus and alertness as well as increase energy.

The keto diet has been shown to work for weight loss, but it can be difficult to adhere to. Additionally, some people, especially those who have difficulty metabolizing fats, will not do well on the ketogenic diet. Consult a health care practitioner before starting the keto diet and see if it is the best option for your weight loss and daily regimen.

End the Silence

March is Endometriosis Awareness Month. It is during this month where we raise awareness to an illness which affects millions of women worldwide.

1 in 10 women in the US are living with endometriosis, and sadly, they are often suffering in silence. It is a disorder that is commonly misdiagnosed as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or simply ‘period pains.’ It can take an average of 10 years between symptom onset & proper diagnosis.

Endometriosis is a disorder in which the tissue that normally lines the inside of the uterus, grows outside instead. Endometriosis growths bleed in the same way the lining inside of your uterus does every month. This can cause swelling and pain because the tissue grows and bleeds in an area where it cannot easily get out of your body. The growths may also continue to expand and cause problems, such as: cysts, inflammation, problems in the intestines and bladder, or formation of scar tissue & adhesions, which may not only cause pain, it may also make it difficult to become pregnant.

The pain that women with endometriosis suffer, which can often be severe and feel sharp or stabbing, occurs in the pelvis or belly and usually won’t go away with medication. Some women with mild cases have intense pain, while others with advanced cases may have little pain or even no pain at all. Other symptoms include excessive bleeding during and/or between periods, backache, leg pain, painful sex, painful bowel movements, and infertility.

While there is no known cause, there are several factors which place you at greater risk for developing this illness. These include:

  • Never giving birth
  • Starting your period at an early age or beginning menopause early
  • Short menstrual cycles
  • Having high levels of estrogen
  • Family history of endometriosis
  • Any medical condition that prevents the normal passage of menstrual flow out of the body
  • Uterine abnormalities

Unfortunately, there is no cure but there are several treatment options. The doctor will talk to you about your symptoms and take the one of the following steps to determine if, in fact, you do have endometriosis:

  • Pelvic exam
  • Imaging test, such as ultrasound or MRI
  • Hormonal birth control
  • Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies such as acupuncture, chiropractic care, herbs like cinnamon twig or licorice root, or supplements, including thiamine (vitamin B1), magnesium, or omega-3 fatty acids.
  • Lowering your estrogen level by exercising regularly, taking birth control, or avoiding large amounts of alcohol and caffeine

If you are experiencing any signs or symptoms of endometriosis, contact your doctor immediately. The sooner you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can be on the path to feeling better.

 

 

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/endometriosis/symptoms-causes/syc-20354656

https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/endometriosis

https://www.endostrong.com/#end

 

By Gina Stallone

What is a Free Radical?

Free radicals and oxidative stress are buzz words that have been trendy in the press. The media touts consuming foods with antioxidants to promote health and longevity, but why is it so important to fight free radicals and what damage do they cause?

Free radicals, or reactive oxygen species, are unstable forms of oxygen that have an unpaired electron. Electrons usually exist in pairs, and since free radicals are constantly looking for their missing electron, they move around the body trying to find a way to pair it. Some amount of free radicals in the body are normal, since free radicals are the products of normal cellular metabolism and are created through ordinary body functions. They help defend against infectious agents, regulate biochemical pathways, and signal cellular functions.  However, free radicals are also created from environmental exposure, such as pollutants, radiation, antibiotics, and chemicals. Additionally, they are produced from emotional and physical stress, overtraining, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and a poor diet, especially one high in unhealthy fats, sugars, and pesticides. These uncharged molecules can be very harmful to the body because they are unstable while moving around the body, and they may damage cell structures, including DNA, lipids, membranes, enzymes, and proteins, and they derail important biochemical pathways.

Antioxidants are molecules that donate an electron to free radicals to neutralize them. By reducing the number of free radicals, they protect against free radical damage. Normally, the amount of free radicals and antioxidants in the body balance each other out. However, when there is an imbalance between free radicals and the body’s antioxidant system, oxidative stress, or rusting, occurs. During oxidative stress, the immune system becomes overloaded, which harms and ages the body due to the damage to the structures in the cells. This can affect every organ and system in the body and is linked to the development of most chronic diseases.

It is important to consume a diet rich in antioxidants to combat free radicals. Some foods rich in antioxidants are berries, grapes, cocoa, green and white tea, and fruits and vegetables high in carotenoids, bioflavonoids, lycopene, quercetin, lutein, and resveratrol. Many herbs and spices are high in antioxidants, including turmeric, oregano, cinnamon, and rosemary. In addition to consuming antioxidants, our bodies create antioxidants by using vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals from the diet. The most important antioxidants in our body are glutathione, superoxide dismutase, and catalase.

The Western Diet is one of the primary reasons free radicals are increasing. It is devoid of many antioxidants and is too high in calories. Because our diet is mostly “empty calories,” it lacks many nutrients and antioxidants, which are important for our internal antioxidant system. Additionally, the more calories consumed, the more work for the mitochondria, which produces free radicals as a byproduct.

In order to eliminate oxidation, we need to change our diet, lifestyle, and environment. First, avoid overeating and try to maintain a healthy weight. Eliminate sugar, processed foods,and refined carbohydrates. Eat organic fruits and vegetables when you can and avoid pesticides. Avoid toxins and air pollution and find methods for reducing stress. Supplements are available, but is better to have a healthy lifestyle and diet to reduce free radicals.

By Denise Groothuis RD

Cut the Salt

 

Sodium is a mineral that’s essential for life. It’s regulated in the body by your kidneys and it helps to control your body’s fluid balance. It also helps send nerve impulses and affects muscle function. While it’s important to incorporate sodium into your diet, it’s even more so to be cautious of it.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams per day but the ideal limit should really be 1,500 for most adults. More than 75% of sodium that Americans consume comes from processed, pre-packaged, & restaurant foods – not the salt shaker!

Some tips, as recommended by the AHA, for keeping sodium down include:

  • Choose packaged & prepared foods as well as condiments carefully
  • Pick fresh & frozen poultry that hasn’t been injected with a sodium solution
  • Choose canned vegetables labeled “no salt added” and frozen vegetables without salty sides
  • Use onions, garlic, herbs, spices, citrus juices and vinegarsin place of some or all of the salt to add flavor to foods. 
  • Drain and rinse canned beans(like chickpeas, kidney beans, etc.) and vegetables – this can cut the sodium by up to 40 percent
  • Cook pasta, rice, and hot cereal without salt
  • Cook by grilling, braising, roasting, searing, and sautéing to bring out the natural flavors in foods
  • Incorporate foods with potassium, like sweet potatoes, potatoes, greens, tomatoes and lower-sodium tomato sauce, white beans, kidney beans, nonfat yogurt, oranges, bananas and cantaloupe. Potassium helps counter the effects of sodium and may help lower your blood pressure.

If you tend to eat at restaurants or order food to-go often, they recommend specifying how you want your food prepared, tasting your food before adding salt, and watching out for key words such as pickled, brined, barbecued, cured, smoked, broth, au jus, soy sauce, miso, or teriyaki sauce. Foods that are steamed, baked, grilled, poached or roasted may have less sodium.

When there’s extra sodium in your bloodstream, it pulls water into your blood vessels, increasing the total amount (volume) of blood inside your blood vessels. With more blood flowing through your blood vessels, blood pressure increases. Make an appointment to see your doctor to test your blood pressure and to discuss the right diet for you.

By Gina Stallone

 

What is Leaky Gut?

According to the National Institute of Health, 60-70 million people in the United States are affected by digestive diseases. This includes irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), constipation, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), gallstones, and reflux, among others. The condition and function of the GI tract is important for our overall health and well-being. Research shows that stress, lack of physical activity, processed foods, and chemicals affect the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) and contribute to an increased incidence of disease.

The food we ingest gets broken down, and the nutrients are absorbed in the small intestines before entering the bloodstream. The balance of gut micro-organisms, the mucosal lining, and the integrity of the tight junctions, which are located in the epithelial lining of the small intestines, all contribute to the proper digestion and absorption of food. The lining of the small intestines is semi-permeable and normally allows nutrients to be absorbed, while also acting as a barrier to prevent toxins, microbes, and large food particles from entering our internal system. Additionally, the lining contains a substance called secretory IgA (SIgA), which is an immunoglobulin that binds to bacteria, toxins, viruses, fungal spores and antigens, and it prevents them from crossing the epithelial barrier and entering the bloodstream. Next, the lining is made up of tiny openings called tight junctions, which are responsible for determining what is allowed to pass from the intestine into the bloodstream. They allow vital nutrients into the blood stream while keeping large undigested food particles and disease causing compounds out of the systemic circulation.

Leaky gut, also known as intestinal hyperpermeability, occurs when the toxic byproducts and undigested proteins in the GI tract are absorbed into the bloodstream and cause inflammation. When SIgA is decreased, fewer pathogens are eliminated, and the altered microbiota in the small intestine leads to dysbiosis, which is a change in the balance of the microorganisms. Other causes of dysbiosis are physical stress, mental stress, infections, chemicals, alcohol, antibiotics, corticosteroids, birth control pills, and dietary factors, such as gluten. Additionally, an overgrowth of yeast can also damage the mucosal barrier and increase the permeability of the intestine so that undigested particles are absorbed. Yeast also releases toxins and enzymes which can further increase intestinal permeability.  In summary, any condition that may cause inflammation, such as medications, infections, trauma, or a range of diseases including cancer, may result in hyperpermeability.

As a result of this dysbiosis, there is a malfunction of the tight junctions and a breakdown of the gut barrier. The tight junctions open too wide and become more permeable, allowing unwanted toxins and other particles to “leak” into the bloodstream overwhelming the liver and causing potential allergies.  There is an inflammatory response with toxins moving from inside the gut to outside the gut due to lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which are molecules on the surface of gram negative bacteria. These molecules cause inflammation outside the gut by activating the cytokines, which are substances that signal the activation of the immune system.

Some of the symptoms of leaky gut include fatigue, fevers, poor tolerance to exercise, memory issues, food sensitivities, thyroid dysfunction, inflammatory skin conditions, nutrient malabsorption, bloating, abdominal issues, fevers of unknown origin, and issues with concentration. Very often, leaky gut can lead to diseases and conditions and can be underlying factors in ADD, psoriasis, irritable bowel syndrome, malnutrition, food allergies and intolerances, autism, celiac disease, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, eczema, acne, dermatitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and chronic fatigue syndrome.

In order to repair leaky gut. A “6R” approach is often used: 1. Remove 2. Reduce 3. Restore 4. Replace 5. Reinoculate 6. Repair.  First, it is important to remove whatever is irritating and damaging the GI tract, such as NSAIDS, alcohol, allergenic foods, and pathogens. After removing these irritants, proper motility needs to be restored. Insoluble fiber can be used to restore the appropriate bowel transit time to make sure food is moving through the GI tract at an acceptable rate. Next, digestive enzymes need to be replaced to aid in digestion and stimulate the body’s own enzyme production. Afterwards, the GI tract needs to be reinoculated with friendly bacteria by taking probiotics to rebalance the microflora. Lastly, the mucosal lining should be repaired with specific supplements, such as L-glutamine, zinc, essential fatty acids, N-acetyl glucosamine, aloe vera, glycerrhiza, beta carotene, vitamins A, C, an E, and others.

Leaky gut is not a disease, but it is a real condition that needs to be addressed. It is a gray area in the medical field because it is result of some other condition rather than a diagnosis by itself. If you are experiencing GI symptoms without an etiology, it is certainly worth investigating. The gut could be your answer to a healthier, happier existence.

by Denise Groothuis MS RD CPT

 

Get Moving!!

February is Heart Health Awareness Month. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. While there are many ways you can avoid this disease, staying active is one of the easiest. Studies show that people who don’t exercise are almost twice as likely to get heart disease as people who are active. In fact, regular exercise can help burn calories, lower LDL (bad cholesterol), and boost HDL (good cholesterol).

The American Heart Association recommends approximately 150 minutes of exercise per week. This can be divided into 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise 5 days per week or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity 3 days per week along with moderate to high intensity strength training 2 days per week. Some of the best types of exercises that you can do are interval training, total-body/nonimpact sports, weight training, core workouts, and yoga. You can also just go for a brisk walk for 30 minutes per day.

In addition to strengthening muscles, exercise has been proven to do wonders for your heart health. For one, it can lower blood pressure. It does this by acting like a beta-blocker medication, which slows the heart rate & lowers blood pressure both at rest & while working out. It also lowers your stress level. Stress hormones can put an extra burden on the heart, but exercise can help you to relax and thus, ease stress. Additionally, it can stop or slow the development of diabetes. When combined with strength training, regular aerobic exercise can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50%! It does this by allowing the muscles to better process glycogen. Next, it is key for weight control. Being overweight can put extra stress on the heart, and it is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Combining a smart diet with physical activity is essential for losing weight and, most importantly, for keeping it off. Lastly, it can help reduce inflammation. Regular exercise has been shown to reduce chronic inflammation as the body adapts to the challenge of exercise within the bodily systems.

Some simple ways to get more exercise into your day include just moving or walking more. Park your car at the far end of the parking lot at your job or choose stairs instead of the elevator. If possible, spend part of your lunch break walking or take a few short walks throughout the day. Break the TV habit in favor of exercise or, if you have the space, exercise in front of the TV. Don’t sit for too long at one time. In recent years, research has suggested that staying seated for long periods of time is bad for your health, no matter how much exercise you get.

Before beginning any new exercise regimen, be sure to speak with your physician. Stop and get immediate medical attention if you have pain or pressure in your chest or the upper part of your body, break out in a cold sweat, have trouble breathing, have a very fast or uneven heart rate, or feel dizzy, lightheaded, and/or very tired.

 

By Gina Stallone

Stay Safe on the Slopes

January is National Sports/Winter Sports TBI Awareness Month. TBI stands for Traumatic Brain Injury. This month is meant to shed light on concussions and other brain injuries sustained during sports, specifically that of winter sports. Traumatic brain injury occurs when a trauma, such as a fall, head injury, or car crash, causes damage to the way the brain functions. According to the American Physical Therapy Association, approximately 1.7 million TBIs occur each year in the US, resulting in 52,000 deaths and 275,000 hospitalizations. TBI is usually misdiagnosed which often causes complications or the death of the patient.

Football & hockey are most commonly associated with these types of injuries however skiing, snowboarding, ice skating, and snowmobiling also can cause significant damage. A 10-year study by the International Federation of Skiing documented 320 concussions sustained by athletes in the disciplines of alpine skiing, freestyle skiing, snowboarding, and ski jumping.

The National Ski Areas Association has provided the following tips for staying safe on the slopes this winter:

  • Always wear a helmet! Make sure that the helmet fits properly and that you fasten the chin strap. You want to be sure to have a proper winter activity helmet, not a bicycle helmet. Ski & snowboard helmets have specific features geared towards those activities
  • Wear the proper size skis. Larger skis may be harder to control. Speak to a professional in order to pick the appropriate size skis for your body type
  • Have proper bindings which keep your boots to the skis or snowboard. Binds should be able to release your foot but not too easily & should be adjusted by a professional
  • Boots should fit correctly, not too big or too tight. Your boots should also be warm and should be secured to the skis or snowboard
  • Like skis, poles should be of appropriate length and should have looped straps which go around your wrists

In the event that an injury does occur, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. Do not continue with the sport or activity until cleared by a medical professional. Rest is the best form of treatment when it comes to a concussion. This will allow the brain to better recover and prevent further damage. You may be advised to abstain from physical activity and even activities which require you to focus or learn new concepts. This may involve working less hours or shortening your school days. As symptoms begin to improve, you may gradually increase activity level as advised by your doctor. Keep in mind that repeated blows to the head can lead to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy. This is a progressive, degenerative disease that has been linked to memory loss, impaired judgment, insomnia, dementia, and severe depression. Follow the tips above & always err on the side of caution when participating in vigorous winter activities.

As with most sports & activities, you should get yourself in shape prior to hitting the slopes. You can’t ski your way into shape and you will enjoy it much more if you’re physically fit. Come to The Arena & train with our strength & conditioning coaches who can get you in great shape for the slopes & throughout the whole year.

By Gina Stallone CPT

Learn this Simple Lifesaving Technique

 

This is a true story that I hope inspires you to take action.

A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s birthday dinner with my family. A lady sitting at the far end of my table suddenly stood up holding her throat looking in distress. She began walking toward the bar. The lights were dim and the music loud. Most people in the crowded room didn’t seem to notice. Her friends sitting at the table did not follow her. Maybe they thought she wanted privacy? Earlier I had overheard her saying that she had many food allergies and was extremely sensitive. I initially thought she was having an allergic reaction to something she ate.

A member of the waitstaff followed her. I was concerned and followed her as well. My thoughts at that point were to ask her about and look for an EpiPen as she had known allergies. As I got closer she collapsed to her knees still holding her throat. At that point it seemed more like she was choking and all of a sudden those years of CPR training and recertification I had received, that I hoped I never had to use, kicked in. I yelled to the bartender to call 911 (which they were on their way to do anyway). In an emergency, always call 911 to get help on the way as quickly as possible.

I asked her if she was choking and wanted me to help her and she desperately nodded. Strange and obvious as this question may sound, this is part of the protocol. There were some waitstaff and bartenders around us and someone asked if I knew what to do. I said I had training in this, would do all I can to help and then got to work.

After performing two rounds of the abdominal thrust protocol also known as the Heimlich Maneuver, her airway cleared and she started coughing and breathing. I cannot describe the relief and gratitude I felt, and cannot even imagine what she must have felt at that moment.

What was most striking, and almost surreal, to me during this experience was the automatic response and calm control I felt. The reason being, every time I’ve taken CPR classes over the years, I’ve always dreaded actually being in a situation where the training was necessary. My fear was that I wouldn’t act effectively under pressure in the heat of the moment. But I felt surprisingly clear-minded, the procedure seemed to flow and thankfully was successful. The lady, although a little shaken, was ok.

Another thing that struck me was the fact that with so many people around, no one else followed her to see if she needed help as she walked away. Some people may not be able to recognize signs of distress, or maybe want to give privacy and not embarrass someone if they don’t realize the gravity of the situation. If you feel you are in distress, make it known that you need help. This is crucial.

My reason for sharing this story is to encourage you to get training in CPR or CPR/First Aid. You can make a huge difference in, and maybe even save someone’s life. Familiarize yourself with the basics because things really do happen at unexpected times. Then continue to be re-certified/trained as years go by. Practice and brush up on these skills once in a while. Repetition is what creates motor memory and will make a difference when there is real stress involved.

Some of us are required to have this training based on our careers. But even if it’s not a requirement, do it anyway. Sometimes professional help may be too far away when every second counts. So the more prepared we are to respond and take appropriate action when time is of the essence, the better our chances of successful outcomes.

There are lots of resources online for basic information and classes everywhere. Simply Google CPR classes in your area and you’ll easily find one.  Below are some links to help you get started.

 

Links:

http://www.redcross.org/flash/brr/English-html/conscious-choking.asp

http://henryheimlich.com/how-to-perform-the-heimlich-maneuver/

https://www.webmd.com/first-aid/choking-in-children#1

https://www.redcross.org/images/MEDIA_CustomProductCatalog/m4240175_Pediatric_ready_reference.pdf

https://www.redcross.org/take-a-class/lp/cpr-first-aid-aed-certification-new-hero?utm=a&device=d&scode=PSG00000E017&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIyqem79HI2AIVB1gNCh3r8AciEAAYASAAEgLSE_D_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds&dclid=CNOCm5fSyNgCFcQONwodYiUCTA

What Can We Learn from Top Athletes?

One of the quotes that better describes the mindset of successful athletes says, “Top athletes train as if they are the worst, yet compete as if they are the best.” I find it to be a humble, yet a powerful description of how an elite athlete goes about the mental preparation to succeed. Success is not consistently achieved by just showing up to compete and trying your best. Elite athletes clearly understand that the best predictor of success is a well-structured practice that pushes their physical, strategic, and mindset boundaries. Only when practices are used to their fullest potential, ideal performance are achieved.

Here are the best five habits shared by elite athletes that we can also implement:

Goal setting

Elite athletes plan their course of action by specifically setting out their goals under a reasonable time-table. Knowing exactly what they want to achieve pushes them to take action in direction toward constant improvement. Goals are broken down by identifying long-term objectives first and then working backwards by setting short term goals. One way to effectively stay on track on the achievement is by using a SMART chart. Eliud Keichogue, who ran 2nd in the 2016 London Marathon, kept track of all his progress, which helps him to remind himself of all his success and progress he was making to meet his goals.

 

 

Embrace mistakes as a learning experience

Elite athletes compete against themselves. All their focus is on improving their skills, mindset and performance. Missing the achievement of a goal is not a setback, but rather an opportunity to learn and improve for next time. Avoiding mistakes will only limit their achievements. Learning how to cope with setbacks will push them to achieve their goals. They see a big difference between obstacles versus challenges. The former places focus on the negative whereas the latter on the positive. Elite athletes are constantly learning from all their opportunities that are given and use that experience to feed more information and critical thinking to plan better for next time.

 

  • Sleep

Usain Bolt shared that his unnegotiable preparation routine is sleep. Sleeping is a time to recover and re-energize the body and mind. Make sure your room is free from electronics, a bit on the cooler side as it helps to rest the body quicker, and maintain a routine. Equally effective are power-naps. It provides time for the body to heal and, most importantly, for the mind to be fresh and ready to react and respond.

 

  • Imagery

The imagery of attaining goals is a powerful tool that feeds the brain with positive energy, optimism and motivation. Athletes visualize the achievement of their goal prior to starting each of their performances and practices.  There are two ways of doing imagery work: Internal Imagery: the athlete sees him/herself executing the ideal performance by bringing in as vivid an imagery as possible. The athlete “feels” the entire experience of the performance as if he/she is really doing it. The clearer and the more vivid the imagery is, the more the body will remember such an experience. External Imagery: the athlete sees him/herself competing as if he/she was on a canvas or screen of a movie theatre. In this case, there is an imaginary distance where the athlete “sees” him/herself successfully completing the entire performance rather than sensing it in his/her body.

  • Be happy

Katie Ledecky, a multiple time Olympic and World swimming champion, has learned to take competition in a happy, more relaxed manner. She shares that she places anxious moments at an arm’s length by bringing positive thoughts to any negative thoughts that start to creep into her mind. She finds that smiling and laughter brings relaxation and are natural remedies to alleviate stress.

Hope these tips used by elite athletes are equally incorporated in your routines. If it works from them, it can clearly work for us.

Alex Diaz, PhD

Sports Mental Edge