Training = Brains + Brawn

Back when I was in school there weren’t the number of options for classes that there are now. Our schedules included math, science, English, socials, physical education and since this was a Catholic school we also had religion.

Later on I taught high school briefly before taking an indefinite leave to focus on being an entrepreneur and growing Okanagan Peak Performance Inc. One thing I noticed that had changed from my days as a student to one as a teacher was the wider selection of courses. As well, there were students diagnosed with learning disabilities and other challenges. There would be CEAs and tutors available to help such students.

But what if there was another option available to help students learn? What if there was something that could help the student in the classroom and with their health?

Well there is such an option and it’s to do exercise before school.

A recent review looked at a number of studies to determine the effectiveness of fitness training on memory and learning.

The researchers looked at papers over a 10 year period (from 2009 to 2019) that were listed in PubMed. Participants of included studies ranged from 18-35 years. From an initial search of 467 papers, the criteria above reduced this to 13 papers for the review.

What they found is that exercise improves memory, learning ability, attention and concentration in young people that exercise for up to an hour. The benefits will last up to two hours and included exercise sessions of two to sixty minutes. The common feature is that the exercise had to be high intensity.

With regards to the duration it appears to be more important for cognition and less important for memory. As well, with memory there seems to be some benefit to having a recovery period after even if only as short as five minutes.

So how effective is exercise on improving test scores?

The graphic below is from Paul Zientarski, a retired PE teacher from Illinois. Mr. Zientarski started a before school fitness program to halt the declining health of the students. While the students’ health improved, academic test scores went through the roof. During a phone call with Paul earlier this year he shared with me the requirement for fitness to preceed academics. This is confirmed by the findings of the review.

Struggle with math? Try exercising immediately before class. Students
that do realize a 93% improvement in math test scores.

It’s not clear yet what the mechanism is for the improvements in learning. Some speculate it’s due to BDNF (brain derived neurotropic factor) flooding the brain after exercise. Others believe it’s due to increased expression and modulation of dopamine. It may have to do with c-AMP binding proteins. The answer isn’t known yet but will become more clear with continued research in this area.

What is clear however is that exercise before school leads to better focus, attention, cognition and ultimately better grades.

Reference

Blomstrand, P., & Engvall, J. Effects of a Single Exercise Workout on Memory and Learning Functions in Young Adults–a Systematic Review. Translational Sports Medicine.

The Difference Between Mobility and Flexibility

There are some things in life that get interchanged and used as one and the same. One example that comes to mind is dietitian and nutritionist.

A dietitian is the professional designation reserved for those that are accountable to a regulatory college. The same is not required to be a nutritionist. So the term nutritionist can be used by anyone and can be hard to know what is meant when it is used.

Another example of terms that get mixed up can flexibility and mobility. While they are related they are not the same.

An article by Eric Cressey and Toby Brooks does a great job of distinguishing between the two. The table below highlights some of the key differences between mobility and flexibility.

Flexibility is typically something we consider in a clinical setting. For example, you might be on a table at the physiotherapist and they check the flexibility of your hamstrings. Compare this to our mobility which we would tend to look at when loaded, such as when we are standing. A coach might look at whether an athlete can touch their toes or what their hinge looks like.

With flexibility adding strength or power to the mix has a detrimental effect. Imagine performing a stretch but doing so with added external force or speed and this may lead to a poor outcome. Mobility however can be improved when we add some resistance to the drill. The swimmers we work with will be familiar with performing some banded shoulder dislocates or banded pull aparts during their warm up.

Neuromuscular efficiency refers to having the right muscle fire at the right time and in the right plane. There is a significant neuromuscular influence with respect to mobility training. Flexibility training has minimal neuromuscular influence.

When we are working on our flexibility this usually involves only one or two joints. Picture raising the leg to the ceiling with a straight knee while on your back. Here the hip joint is the key one involved. Compare this to hinging back at the hips while reaching forward with the hands. Now there is involvement of the ankle, hip, t-spine and shoulder.

Fascia helps connect the body. When we stretch focussing on just one joint there is minimal involvement of the fascia. For this example, imagine wearing a tight fitting wetsuit. When on your back on the ground you won’t feel the stretch of the wetsuit through the back and shoulders. If you stood up and touched your toes you’d feel the stretch of the wetsuit on every part of the back of the wetsuit.

When assessing flexibility this can be done on the ground, unloaded with a goniometer to measure the angles between joints. Mobility can be assessed with various movements such as a toe touch or a squat. As well, mobility needs to be re-assessed as it has a significant neuromuscular influence and is facilitated with strength and power. As young athletes, develop, mature and get stronger we should changes in their mobility.

In terms of when we should perform flexibility training this is best done after training or outside of training sessions. When performed before training this results in lower power outputs and a poorer training experience. This occurs because static stretching, which flexibility training is, makes the musculotendinous unit more compliant. The joint will then yield more to the external force and result in an energy leak. Mobility training has the opposite effect and enhances power outputs. This is partly due to the significant neuromuscular influence on mobility training. Plyometrics, sprints and med ball work don’t necessarily make us stronger or fitter but they do help us develop force more quickly which has to do with our nervous system.

Going forward keep in mind how flexibility and mobility differ. Mobility training can and should be incorporated into a training sessions whereas addressing flexibility should be done outside of training. Not only is mobility work facilitated by strength and power, it can also be used in between sets to address muscular imbalances and lead to better results.

Brooks, T., & Cressey, E. (2013). Mobility training for the young athlete. Strength & Conditioning Journal35(3), 27-33.

Welcome to OPP Ayumi

Many of our clients have had the chance to meet and maybe work with Ayumi. Even if you have, below are a few more details on this new addition to our OPP team.

My name is Ayumi and I’m a certified personal trainer and movement coach. After years of working in an office, I decided to leave my desk job and pursue a career in the fitness field.

I grew up playing basketball and have always been an active person. Due to my background in sport, it was very natural to become a fitness trainer.

My purpose is to help people to become the healthiest and happiest version of themselves. I want to have a positive impact to everyone that I meet in my life.

I’ve been focusing on studying biomechanics for last few years. I specialize in movement coaching and incorporate mobility workout with strength training. This approach helps my clients move better and get a more effective workout. I help people that want to gain adequate mobility to archive their specific fitness goals, or want to move better / pain free in everyday life.

When you don’t see me in the gym, you would find me hiking with my two fur kids, or sunbathing at a beach. I am also big fan of craft beers. One of my favourite things to do on my day off is to ride my bike and do a brewery tour with my friends.

If you’d to experience Ayumi’s coaching and work on your mobility you should sign up for our Movement 101 Class. This will run Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7 pm starting September 15 for 4 weeks. To register email athletetraining (at) shaw (dot) ca, call (778) 214-6563 or stop in to Okanagan Peak Performance Inc.

Early Worms Get 6 Packs

Back in high school I was a night owl. When exam time came around I would buy a six pack of Coke and and study through the night as I crushed cans of soda.

This trend continued through my university days. I remember my first year of university in Ohio and studying for a botany test with Dr. Dickinson. A few of us got together to pull an all-nighter. Someone brought a package of chocolate covered coffee beans and we snacked on these and quizzed each other on the Latin name for oak and the various organelles of the plant cell.

Schwarzenegger was known as the Austrian Oak. The genus for oak is quercus. So Schwarzenegger would be the Austrian Quercus. Yes, this is how I studied.

Knowing what I know now I would have done things differently.

What would I have changed?

Well for starters I wouldn’t have pulled all-nighters. I would have spent more time preparing earlier rather than leaving it all to the night before. Grades are important but health is more important. Plus at a certain point I’m sure there is the potential for diminishing returns when sacrificing sleep in order to try and learn the content from one more chapter.

What I should have done would have been to get a good night’s sleep and exercise before the exam. Dr. Ratey does a great job in his book Spark of explaining the benefits of exercise on the brain especially when it comes to cognitive function like taking an exam.

And hopefully this routine of getting better sleep, waking up early and exercising before work or school would have carried on through life.

Because there are a variety of chronotypes. Some of us are early birds, others are night owls and the rest fall somewhere in between.

So do these differences matter?

Well a recent Finish study looked at early birds versus night owls in terms of how active and sedentary they are.

The study included over five thousand male and female subjects. Subjects wore activity trackers for two weeks to see how active early birds are compared to night owls.

What they found was that female early birds get 20 minutes more of activity per day compared to night owls. And for men the difference was 30 minutes. Men with morning and day chronotypes had less sedentary time compared to evening types. For women there was no difference in terms of the amount of sedentary time based on chronotype.

And anecdotally the clients we work that train in the morning tend to get better results than those that train in the evening. This could be due to having more energy at the start versus the end of the day. Or it could be adherence to morning sessions is greater as there are fewer of life’s distractions earlier compared to later in the day.

The take home message is that exercise at any time is better than no exercise at all. Some of us are hardwired more for the evening than the morning and it may be hard to force this change. However if either option is available to you there are benefits to training in the morning. You will burn more calories, sit around less and get your brain going for work or school.

References

  1. Ratey, J. J. (2008). Spark: The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain. Little, Brown Spark.
  2. Nauha, L., Jurvelin, H., Ala‐Mursula, L., Niemelä, M., Jämsä, T., Kangas, M., & Korpelainen, R. (2020). Chronotypes and objectively measured physical activity and sedentary time at midlife. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports.

Animal Protein Better for Grip Strength and Functional Status

We just got back from a few days camping at the lake. And it was great to not set an alarm, to go boating, kayaking, swimming with the kids and to end each day around the campfire.

And when we’re camping we relax our nutritional choices a little bit to include a cold beer, a smore around the camp fire and other snacks during the day. When you’re camping with a group you tend to do things by committee. One group will look after making the meals. Another may handle cleaning up and doing the dishes.

When it was my turn in the kitchen I prepared meals with a definite omnivore influence. We made sure to include lots of fruits, vegetables and salads at each meal. But this was to accompany bacon and eggs, steaks, chicken tacos and turkey sandwiches.

For a while there the was a real push back against including meat in the diet. We saw a number of people wanting to become ‘game changers’ and drop meat from their diets. Restaurants were dropping meat or at least adding meatless alternatives to their menus. And overall it seemed as though you had to whisper when you talked about having a steak for dinner on the weekend.

Well, with everything in life it seems like when we learn something new we go overboard and over-react in the short term, and maybe under react in the long term.

Eating more fruits and vegetables would be an appropriate reaction. Eliminating all meat in favour of processed meatless alternatives would be an over-reaction.

A new study helps bring the pendulum back into balance.

In this one researchers looked at the difference plant versus animal protein had on grip strength and functional status. Almost 1900 subjects were involved in this study which ran for over 14 years. This was part of the Framingham Offspring Study and included male and female subjects over 50 years of age. This is important as it is at this point in life when we will experience noticeable strength deficits, unless we do something about it. And as we lose strength we will realize a decline in our functional status making it more difficult to complete, or maybe even failing, at certain tasks.

What they noticed is that subjects that ate more protein, whether animal or plant, had higher functional scores. However only those that included animal protein in the diet had a lower risk for functional impairment. As mentioned, maintaining strength allows for higher functional status.

The take home message is to keep your protein intake up as you age. And make sure that you include some animal protein in the diet. An expression we are fond of is ‘the less legs the better’. This means fish and seafood might be a better choice than beef, pork or poultry.

Lastly, while increased protein intake helps us protect against muscle loss and the loss of function as we age, this must be paired with a resistance training program. Eating protein alone won’t do the job. Although this study doesn’t didn’t look at resistance training, we could infer that resistance training and eating animal protein would be superior for strength gains and minimizing the loss of functional status.

Reference

Yuan, M., Pickering, R. T., Bradlee, M. L., Mustafa, J., Singer, M. R., & Moore, L. L. (2020). Animal protein intake reduces risk of functional impairment and strength loss in older adults. Clinical Nutrition.

Kids Can’t Jump

Full disclosure…I’m not a very good leaper. I was a swimmer for most of my athletic career. I also played a little basketball and volleyball. And while jumping is a key aspect of most sports it wasn’t my forte.

Even later in training I was never the best at box jumps. I remember a friend, Chris Lebihan, coming in to the gym one day to train. And the plyo boxes were stacked totalling 54″ tall or 4 feet 6 inches.

Anyways, a number of young athletes were training. And one of them commented that jumping that high just wasn’t possible. Lebs had just walked in the gym in street clothes with his gym bag slung over his shoulder. I called to him and asked him to jump up on the boxes. He dropped his bag off his shoulder and proceeded to jump atop the boxes with ease.

He picked up his bag and carried on to the change-room. The young athletes were stunned and speechless.

Now to be fair it didn’t hurt that Lebs was an Olympic medallist in a power sport i.e. bobsleigh. And it definitely made a huge impact on those young athletes.

So besides impressing people in the gym what else is jumping good for?

Well, it’s an important quality in many team sports. The striker in soccer may need to get up on a corner to head the ball in for a goal. In football, a receiver may need to out jump the defense on a last play Hail Mary. Basketball and volleyball involve constant jumping on every play from a lay up, a dunk or a rebound in the former to a serve, a hit or a block in the latter.

When you think about it the highlight plays of most sports involve jumping. This could be the incredible save in a soccer game. Or the kill after a hit in a volleyball game. Or the leap at the wall in baseball to save a homeroom.

You could also say running is bounding from one foot to the other. In that case every sport that involves a great run in a game is a demonstration of excellent jumping ability.

The unfortunate reality however is that we are getting worse at jumping.

An Australian study looked at the jumping ability of young athletes and found it’s getting worse.

The 30 year study ran from 1985 to 2015 and included over 1700 eleven and twelve year olds. Researchers looks at standing long jump, anthropometric and demographic data.

What they found is that young athletes are jumping 16.4 cm less in 2015 than they were 1985. This accounts for a decrease of 11.2%. So much for better programming, coaching and technology.

But wait you might be thinking…children are more massive today than they were 30 years ago. So it makes sense they can’t jump as far.

This is true. However when the researchers adjusted the results for mass they still noticed a reduction of 11.1 cm in jumping distance or 7.7%.

And Canada is just as bad as Australia when it comes to obesity. And young people aren’t getting as much exercise as they used to. A Canadian report from 2014 found only 7% of 5-11 year olds get 60 minutes of exercise per day. Once they age up to 12 years old the number drops to 4%.

How sad is that? In a group of 25 kids, a normal class size, only one student would get an hour of exercise per day. How is that even possible at 12 years old when there are opportunities to play before, during and after school, on the weekend and during holidays?

Not bad enough for you? It’s worse.

During the COVID pandemic only 0.8% of 12-17 year olds got an hour of exercise per day.

Wow! Not good at all.

Fortunately we have a solution in place to help reverse this.

Coach Nathan will be running a Vertical Power Camp from August 10 to September 18 at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc.

This camp is fully programmed and coached and will teach young athletes how to improve their jumping ability. They will learn how to improve their mobility, how to get their core turned on, how to properly put force into the ground, how to use their arms and maybe most importantly, how to do all this to prevent injury.

With COVID protocols there are limits on numbers. But this also allows for more personalized coaching and ultimately better results. Everything kicks off a week from Monday on August 10, 2020. Call or stop by Okanagan Peak Performance Inc. to register. And get ready to take your vertical power to new heights.

References

  1. Fraser, B. J., Blizzard, L., Tomkinson, G. R., Lycett, K., Wake, M., Burgner, D., Olds, T. (2019). The great leap backward: changes in the jumping performance of Australian children aged 11− 12-years between 1985 and 2015. Journal of sports sciences37(7), 748-754.
  2. https://www.participaction.com/en-ca/resources/children-and-youth-reportcard#:~:text=The%20ParticipACTION%20Report%20Card%20on,contain%20the%20COVID%2D19%20pandemic.

Enjoy Picking Up Poo

So we got a dog.

And it wasn’t a decision we took lightly or came to quickly. We’ve been considering this for a number of years, even before we had kids. In fact, when Olivia was 3 she was asked if she thought she’d be getting a dog. She’s 7 now by the way.

Sorry to all other dog owners out there
but Poppy is the cutest puppy in the world.

Anyways, she thought about this for a second and then gave a great answer. She said “she’d have to get a new family first”.

That comment has haunted me ever since. Nobody wants to be the bad dad. But we do enjoy to travel. And we head up to the hill in the winter. And I couldn’t see how we could continue our current lifestyle with a dog in the mix. And to be honest I’ll still don’t.

To give you an example of how ‘on the fence’ I was about getting a dog, we told the girls we were going to babysit the dog for a few nights. And so the dog would have a few nights sleepover with us. This would allow Alexandra and I the chance to evaluate how everyone was adapting to this new member of our family. And how this little puppy was adapting to us.

Because let’s be honest, a new puppy can be a lot of work. And if we realized we weren’t up for the challenge or we’d bitten off more than we could chew than we still had the option to take the dog and the girls would still be over the moon about having a dog stay with us for a few nights.

Win-win, right?

Plus, since we decided to keep the puppy you should have seen the girls faces and their reactions when we told them we were going to keep the puppy forever. It was Christmas in July and they were pumped.

So, now we’d had this little 10 week old puppy with us for a couple of weeks. And the girls have had fights over whose turn it is to take the dog out to do her business. And more importantly, whose job it is to pick up the dog poo.

Let me repeat that last line.

The girls are fighting over who gets to pick up dog poo.

I am now convinced that everything in life is simply perspective. I could offer the girls money, candy or anything compared with getting to pick up dog poo and they’d pick the poo.

So how does this relate to you and your fitness or performance goals?

Well, often times we can become focussed on the outcome. We can imagine how great life will be when we lose the weight, when we rehab our back or when we win the championship.

But here’s the thing…

There’s no guarantee that we’ll achieve everything we set out to do. And in sports the final outcome usually involves an opponent. So we can worry about doing our best and can’t really control what someone does or doesn’t do. As well, we may expect certain emotions to be associated with the end goal but who knows what it will feel like when we get there? This year has been a great example of this. How many sports events were delayed or cancelled due to COVID?

Instead what we should do is change our perspective.

We need to enjoy the process. We do this by having training partners that challenge and encourage us. We do this by working with coaches that guide, support and educate us. We do this recognizing small changes in habits that are taking us in the right direction.

When we can approach our training in this way we are more likely to attend all of our sessions. We are more likely to arrive early. We are likely to give a best effort. We are more likely to get enough quality sleep. And we are more likely to fuel and recover from training with the best nutrition. We are likely to be receptive and open to criticism or feedback that could help us.

Training can sometimes feel like a grind. But when we change our mindset to enjoy the process it’s not so bad. And we may just get better results in the end also.

Just like enjoying picking up poo.

Zinc to Help Prevent COVID

So Kelowna got hit with a number of COVID cases in the past week. And while many of the cases seemed to be tied to a younger crowd partying downtown, this serves as a good reminder to the rest of us that we’re not out of the woods.

We still need to wash our hands, disinfectant surfaces, maintain social distancing and self isolate if we’re under the weather or travel. As well, exercise can be one of the best things we can do to keep our immune system strong. And we can’t forget the benefits nutrition can play in keeping us healthy.

One nutrient in particular that may help is zinc.

Sources of Zinc

Zinc is an essential nutrient meaning we need to get it in the diet as our bodies cannot produce it. Red meat, chicken and shell fish will be our best sources of this nutrient but we also get it from baked beans, chick peas and nuts. Fortified cereals commonly tout being a source of zinc but this should be considered a last option compared to the other whole, fresh food options listed above.

Why Vegans & Vegetarians May Need More Zinc

Vegans and vegetarians should be more aware of their zinc intake for a couple of reasons. The first is the primary sources are from animal products. Secondly vegetables and grains containing phytates which will reduce the absorption of zinc. So it is even more imperative for vegans and vegetarians to meet the minimum daily amounts listed below.

How Much Zinc Do We Need?

In terms of how much zinc we should get, women should aim for 8 milligrams (mg) and men 11 mg per day. Deficiencies may lead to delayed growth in children, an increased risk of infection and possibly pneumonia. It is estimated that approximately 1.5 billion people are deficient in zinc. However, even though zinc is an essential nutrient and deficiency is widespread it is possible to overdose. Too much zinc can lead to nausea, loss of appetite and cramps.

Role of Zinc

When we do eat enough zinc this helps with enzyme support. Enzymes are biological catalysts and speed up the rate of reaction. Zinc is also important for our cardiovascular, reproductive and nervous systems. And with respect to our immune function, zinc helps with the production and maturation of white blood cells (WBC). Some WBCs produce antibodies which help fight pathogens in the body. Lastly zinc helps us avoid chronic inflammation.

Zinc & COVID

With the COVID pandemic zinc may play an important role. While it helps boost anti-viral immunity and curb inflammation there is also a connection to chloroquine.

It appears chloroquine increases the uptake of zinc. And if it ended there that would be a great thing. But there are known side effects including headache, nausea, diarrhea, rash and more. So probably not worth it.

But zinc has been used many years to block the replication of rhinoviruses such as the common cold. Higher levels of zinc help block the production of rhinoviruses and stimulate interferon alpha production. This helps cells close by to start the anti-viral defense process.

The take message is check a list of zinc containing foods. If you’re not eating these foods regularly look to add them to the plan. If you don’t animal products it’s even more important you hit your daily requirement of this nutrient.

Citation

Skalny, A. V., Rink, L., Ajsuvakova, O. P., Aschner, M., Gritsenko, V. A., Alekseenko, S. I., & Tsatsakis, A. (2020). Zinc and respiratory tract infections: Perspectives for COVID‑19. International Journal of Molecular Medicine46(1), 17-26.

Asthma, Allergies and Poor Sleep Habits of Teenagers

Last weekend was a busy time in our home. We had a BBQ dinner to celebrate my dad’s birthday. It was our 11th wedding anniversary. And we got a new puppy.

The puppy is a 9 week old labradoodle and sure is cute. She did really well during her first day and made it through most of the night. It wasn’t until 4 am when she started whimpering a little bit.

This was only 30 minutes before I normally wake up but it sure felt early. And combined with how busy the previous weekend was it caught up to me quickly. Tonight I’ll be looking to get to bed early and get things back on track.

And a study I recently came across reminded me of the value of sleep.

The 2018 study looked at almost 1700 teenagers of 13-14 years living in India and the connection of sleep to allergies and asthma. They asked the teens if they had any respiratory problems or difficulty breathing as well as if they had any nasal allergies such as runny nose or coughing.

Along with this they also asked the teens what time they felt tired at night, when they woke up and if they felt tired in the morning. Knowing this they could assign the teens a chronotype such as “morning type”, “evening type” or an “intermediate type”.

Sleeping 10 pm – 6 pm is not the same as 1 am – 9 am.
Aim to be an early bird for better health.

What they found is that evening types were 3 times more likely to develop asthma and 2 times as likely to develop a nasal allergy.

These results are even more interesting as the researchers took into account where the teens lived and which ones had smokers or pets in the family. Even when these factors were accounted for they still saw these results.

While the researchers can’t say staying up late causes asthma they do know it disrupts levels of melatonin in the body and affects the allergic response.

The take home message is to put the devices away at least an hour before bed and get to bed earlier rather than later. Early birds get the worms. And early types help avoid getting asthma and allergies.

Reference

Bhattacharjee, S., Haldar, P., Maity, S. G., Debnath, S., Moitra, S., Saha, S., & Moitra, S. (2018). Prevalence and Risk Factors of Asthma and Allergy-Related Diseases among Adolescents (PERFORMANCE) study: rationale and methods. ERJ open research4(2), 00034-2018.

High 5 for Better Performance

I always find it interesting the different pre-game/race rituals of the various athletes we work with.

Some are very quiet and keep to themselves before competition. There is not a lot of talk or action. They may be bundled up in layers to stay warm with buds in their ears to block out distractions.

And then there are those that can’t wait to be let loose. They are bouncing around, loud and may even be a little bit obnoxious. American sprinter Maurice Green comes to mind when I think of this type of athlete.

American sprinter Maurice Greene.

We all can probably identify with one type or the other. For me, I always preferred to be quiet, calm and at rest before a race. I would go over the race in my head and visualize what a good race would look like, how it would feel and what I wanted to do to ensure success.

So what is the goal?

The graph below, the Yerkes-Dodson of Arousal and Performance, explains this well.

On this graph the x-axis (horizontal) shows the level of emotional arousal from low on the left side and high on the right side. The y-axis (vertical) depicts performance with low at the bottom and high at the top. For maximum performance we should seek a medium level of emotional arousal.

In the past, we’ve heard that we need to ‘put on our game face’ in order to perform. And for some that appear a little sleepy or lazy this may be the case. But for those are already ‘amped’ up we may not need more stimulation.

You may have seen instances where athletes use smelling salts prior to competition. This would be when an athlete ‘feels’ they are the left side of the graph, and thus below optimal performance.

Smelling salts are used by players to help increase their focus during competition. They should be avoided if the intent is to return to play prematurely i.e. after a concussion.

On the right side of the graph we have a situation where athletes are overly aroused and thus performance could be compromised. We could think of this in terms of an athlete that is overly excited and thus is compromised in terms of their ability read and react to a stimulus.

So what can we do for the athlete that lives on the far side of the graph and is overly aroused? Tom Brady might have the answer.

Giving a high 5 can help lower arousal levels and may lead to enhanced performance.

A 2019 study looked at the effect of a high five on psychological performance in athletes (1). What they found was a decrease in cortisol levels (a stress hormone) but had no impact on motivation, strength or testosterone. If you are an athlete you can relate to the positive vibe associated with high fiving a coach, team-mate or supporter.

Another option would be the RPR system of Chris Korfist, Cal Dietz and JL Holdsworth (2). This program is based on the premise that most of us exist in a condition of survival or fight/flight. In this state there are limits on how we can perform and we develop compensatory patterns. This leads to potential injury and impedes performance.

The last thing to mention is to remember that there is training and there is competition. Not all training sets are meant to be all-out, best performances. And not all competition requires the same level of arousal. For example, it wouldn’t be unusual for the 100 m sprinter to be highly aroused and do a number of high knees tucks before settling into the blocks at the start. The same tactic before the start of the marathon would be very unusual however. So remember to distinguish between competitive events that are short duration, explosive and those that are longer duration and look to achieve the appropriate level of arousal.

References

  1. Lautenbach, F., Jeraj, D., Loeffler, J., & Musculus, L. (2019). Give Me Five? Examining the Psychophysiological Effects of High-Fives in Athletes. Applied psychophysiology and biofeedback44(3), 211-219.
  2. https://www.reflexiveperformance.com/about