Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rockstar (and then hungover) athletes

So here's how it goes:

I am a collegiate athlete all of 22 years of age. A senior on my team. A "team leader". I train excruciatingly hard 4-5 days per week, nearly year round. On the weekends, I hit the bars and parties until sometimes 2-3, maybe even up til 4 or 5, in the morning. I usually eat a large pizza when I get home to slave off the next days hangover, or I just pass-out (sometimes not even in my own bed) and wake-up the next day around 11 or 12 pm. If I'm lucky and it's only Saturday, I'll get a bite to eat, maybe take another nap in the afternoon and then awake to start the partying and same routine all over again. From here I'll use Sunday to lay in bed all day long (head throbbing), maybe do some homework if my brain can handle any thinking at this point, but mainly just try to recover enough so that Monday can start the next week of hard physical training.

This is common. Common among many college athletes. Don't believe me? Please wake-up.

Maybe it is just me... but it sure seems as though alcohol use is rising and is becoming more and more the norm within athletic environments. It seems as though coaches expect it, are ok with it, and hell, maybe even promote it (not even aware they are doing so).

Alcohol seems to be the white elephant no one wants to deal. Maybe because it's so sacred to everyone. No one is up in arms about smoking bans, but an alcohol ban... well we already know what happens with a ban of alcohol. But does alcohol and athletics have a place together? Where do we draw the line between being "rockstars" and athletes? This day and age it seems we don't. The culture is about being "cool", not necessarily good... or at least good for a long time. Everyone can usually get a taste of success (it's not beer), but it's the great ones that sustain it. Maybe being a "one-hit wonder" is all anyone wants anyway; maybe it's too much work for anything more.

Let me be clear, I am not entirely against having a beer or two (I'll drink, in moderation, once in a great while) every now or then (alcohol has been shown to have some health benefits), but most of these athletes aren't having just a beer or two... many are completely "wrecked" after one of their all-night benders, let alone doing it 2 nights out of the week. I know many athletes are hitting it hard both Friday and Saturday in the off-season training... I mean really?! What happened to the athletes who cut the drinking because 'they are in training'? Yes it is the culture, but does it have to be? It seems that it has become more and more acceptable, and the only other activity to do outside of sports and school. Kids must not know how to comfortably hang-out or pick-up ladies (or ladies meeting guys) without a little self-esteem "boost" from drinking. Obviously all this is a reflection of much bigger issues in our country, but I'll digress here.

*A disclaimer... I have experienced the wild nights and the next days hangover. It wasn't a common occurance for me, but I've been there and done that. I've learned and no longer advocate it. Just because one makes mistakes, doesn't make one a hypocrite for trying to help others from doing the same.

I sit and 'fight' in my head daily, 'should I include this exercise in the program? Should I periodize it this way? Should they be eating this? Having these supplements?' Yet the drinking that many do, just totally annihilates them on some of the most important recovery days of the week.

How about foam rolling? Massage? Ice baths? Any recovery method for that matter? How about just not drinking for one weekend? Let alone a season and/or off-season.

It's not even just the act of drinking that effects things. Heavy drinking is usually accompanied by late nights with little sleep or horrible sleep, ordering a pizza late to hopefully keep away the hangover (junk diet), and it could be considered a gateway drug. Sure alcohol is legal (if your 21), but so is candy, and staying up all night, and living a sedentary lifestyle.

Being in the line of improving sports performance, I am again amused at the level of detail that we go into on things that I think may not do a damn thing, yet we barely get the basics right, let alone even 'touching' the alcohol issue. We'll harp on nutrition, getting good sleep, but alcohol? Forget it. Are we as coaches, sport and performance, even promoting it? Or stating that it's acceptable, by are words or actions?

We all want better and better performance. We all think we have new and great ideas on training. Yet many of us struggle to get our athletes to do the basics well; and to limit or stop the use of alcohol is one that is too sacred for anyone to even touch on. Maybe it's something we can't live without? But think about it... I know of many athletes who 'get their drink on' 2 nights a week. This is nearly 30% of their year. About 100 days of 365 in a year. Holy shit... think what an athlete could do with 100 extra days of something positive happening per year!

And to add, much of this complaint could be thrown back on parents, as it seems that included in the weekly grocery list is to make sure there is enough alcohol for the entire family.

I guess just half a commitment and mediocrity is what we'll take and accept. Or is it? Is having a different philosophy and rules on alcohol not possible?

These are just thoughts I wanted to put out there; things I think about when trying to decide if I should be discussing nutrient timing, working on breathing techniques, theraputic/corrective exercise, stabilizing the dynamic neuromuscular system, wondering if the athletes need the first 30 progressions before they can scratch their ear, and so on... (c'mon fellas, please have a little humor here. I have used, still do, and maybe will use anyone of these things in the future, just not for 95% of the training)


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Physical Education/Cultural Standards

We had a good, slightly heated, discussion yesterday in the class I teach, "Fundamentals of Physical Conditioning" and here are some of the questions I posed:

Should an individual be able to perform 10 pull-ups (chest to the bar, all the way to a dead hang, no bicycle legs or swimming stroke kicks) in order to be able to graduate high school?

Be able to run a mile in under 7 minutes?

Attain a specific average in the 300 yard shuttle test (2 trials with 2 minutes recovery between reps)?

Demonstrate 30 push-ups with precision technique?

Maintain a high level proficiency in a scored movement assessment of running, jumping, climbing, and lifting techniques?

The list could be pretty extensive, but you get the idea.

My argument is that somebody has to step-up and (re-) 'up' the standard. Why not school P.E.? Or are we just too soft?!

The other situation I presented was an at home example. The other evening my 4 year old daughter wanted to watch a video after we got done eating dinner (it was a sing and dance along video I'll have you know, so it wasn't a totally passive video). I told her she could if she did 100 push-ups first. She gladly obliged and proceded to perform push-ups. Her technique leaves a little to be desired but she's working on it... she just turned 4.

As she's off in the living room counting "... 19, 20, 21... ", my wife 40% jokingly, 60% not (that's what it was, I tested it with a tone meter) argues,"Don't you think that's child abuse?"

"No." I immediately responded turning back to continue to monitor Eva as she continued doing push-ups after a brief rest.

All this got me thinking a little more, and I've often wondered, 'is something like this, having my daughter do push-ups just for an opportunity to do something, bad?' What's more abusive, paying with push-ups for a privilage or making a kindergartner sit still in a desk for a total of 2-3 hours out of a day... setting the stage for the beginning of the end for many when it comes to an active lifestyle? Or better yet, feeding our kids the school lunches?