Tip of the Month – August 2019

Coach Monika Says…

Bad Posture – Computers and Neck Pain

Nowadays, people including our athletes, carry out daily activities, exercises or training drills with a ‘slouched or bad’ posture. Incorrect posture affects body position when doing chores, moving about, exercising, walking, running, jumping, or performing athletic skills. Medical experts are dealing with rising problems, such as a stiff neck or neck soreness. The cause is said to be linked to extensive computer work or remaining in the same or prolonged body position.

  • Sit (chair) or stand upright 
  • Legs slightly apart – feet facing forward
  • Face forward – head centered
  • Left arm extended alongside the body
  • Bend Right arm – place bent arm and hand above head across to Left side 
  • Cover top of Left ear with Right hand
  • Pull head carefully to Right side with steady pressure until feeling the stretch in your neck
  • Hold position 10 seconds
  • Release and repeat
  • 8-16 or 15-30 repetitions
  • Repeat with opposite side arm and side
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Hot Weather – Humidity and Athletic Performance

We all enjoy it – sun and lovely summer weather after miserable winter months! However, it is no longer just warm but temperatures are at sweltering levels. This plays havoc, especially in high humidity, and creates not only strain on the body, but also on circulation, skin, and the heart, no matter the age. 

Athletes have to take special precautions when exercising, training, and/or competing outdoors… and for that matter indoors due to potential increased humidity, dampness (pools), and other factors. Often, high school varsity, club soccer, and football teams hold regular pre-season workouts in the middle of the day (August), which has led to several deaths over the past years. Insane! 

Hydrating enough and properly is critical. The body is made up of 2/3 water inside and outside the cells and in the blood circulation. If the body dispenses more water than is taken in proper cell function is affected. Blood thickens and circulation deteriorates, blood pressure falls, and the brain does not receive enough oxygen. The most common result is fatigue/tiredness. 

According to several sources, consume 1.5-2 liter fluid (2.11 US cups). Some experts state that 2 liters are optimal although one has to consider the heat (degrees) and the amount of sweating.

1. Avoiding Heat Stroke

  • Signs of heatstroke: Red and hot head, body cool, head or neck pain, potential nausea
  • Move into the shade
  • Large hat or cap with a broad brim 
  • Airy clothes
  • Sunglasses – sunlight can impede vision

2. Balancing Sweating

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Water with Herbs
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Apfelschorle
(Apple Spritzer)
  • The higher the temperature – the more we sweat – the more fluid is lost – the more we have to drink (hydrate) – otherwise, headaches and issues with circulation occur
  • Suggestions: adding some herbs to water like rosemary and sage – they are said to slow down sweat production
  • Add several fresh mint leaves to a water bottle – mint treats dizziness, nausea, and headaches
  • Intake more citrus fruits to strengthen circulation
  • ‘Apfelschorle’ [Apple Spritzer] is a popular soft drink in Switzerland, Germany, and Austria – carbonated mineral water and apple juice
  • A broader category ‘Fruitschorle’ [Fruit Spritzer] – fruit juice mixed with carbonated water – contains fewer calories, and is less sweet than pure apple juice – also nearly isotonic, and popular in the summer among athletes in Europe – commercially available, generally contains between 55% and 60% juice

3. Sunscreen Protection and Plenty of Fruit and Veggies

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Maracuja Fruit  
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Variety of Fruits & Vegetables

              

  • Self-protection of light-skin coloured people only lasts about 10 minutes – therefore apply sun protection cream early – an adult needs about 4 fully filled tablespoons of cream for the entire body
  • The natural protection of the skin can also be aided from within with beta-carotene by eating carrots, maracuja fruit, mango, and apricots (some examples)  

4. Eating Vitamin-rich Food

  • Select vitamin-rich food to balance vitamin loss through sweating while working out, training and/or competing 
  • Magnesium is frequently lost through sweating, resulting in leg or calf cramping – loss of minerals like copper and zinc may occur

Exercising-Training-Competing in Hot Weather

Adapted from “Don’t sweat the weather – Adapt to it” by Jill Barker (2019, July 29) – with modification by M. Schloder

Athletes exercising, training, and/or competing in hot weather have to be extremely aware and conscious about ‘sweating it out’ during high-noon temperatures, which means being careful about- and not ignoring warnings between high outside temperature and humidity, and the body’s internal temperature (normal 37-degrees). The closer these two are to each other, the more difficult it is for the body to cool itself. When body core temperature rises, athletic performance declines, and the first signs of heat exhaustion appear. ‘Toughen it out’ during a heatwave has led to many hospital visits because of under-estimation the effects in 30 ̊C + weather. 

The struggle to keep cool is most acutely felt by endurance athletes because body heat accumulates over time. However, the most affected may not necessarily be elite athletes because they have most likely learned to manage hot conditions. It is the average exerciser or athlete such as runners, cyclists, or team sport athletes (football, soccer, etc.) who are most likely at risk of heat exhaustion. The body’s internal temperature starts to rise in as little as 15 minutes during hot weather workout or training, and especially if the intensity is high. While the challenge to exercise and train in temperatures near 30 ̊C has been the focus, researchers have also found that performance impairment can start as low as 21 ̊C (69.8 ̊F).

In cooler temperatures, the body functions well at dissipating the heat generated by exercise or training through the evaporation of sweat. However, in high humidity, evaporation does not occur, and heat loss is hindered. Sweat is induced when the body sends internal heat (blood) toward the surface of the skin to cool. As core temperatures rise, more and more blood used to supply working muscles is now diverted toward the outermost skin layers. Due to reduced oxygenated blood, muscles start to fatigue. In addition, the effect of less internal blood flow affects the heart, which has to pump harder to keep circulation flowing. These physiological changes obviously affect performance.

When sweat increases, fluid loss increases as well. This causes sweat production to taper off resulting in the rise of body temperature. Drinking enough water to replace lost fluids is highly recommended but it is not easy to do so, especially if athletes are ‘heavy’ sweaters. Moreover, athletes trying to increase their water intake frequently complain of an upset stomach, or water ‘bouncing’ around in their stomach, especially runners, who seem to experience that feeling with every foot contact on the ground. 

Heat Management Strategies

  • Keep workouts short or shorter 
  • Keep intensity moderate to reduce the accumulation of body heat
  • If possible – schedule early morning- or end of the day workouts when the heat is less intense
  • Maintain workout pattern for 5-10 days to get more efficient at managing the heat
  • As acclimatization improves the body’s cooling system; the body’s cooling mechanisms start working earlier in the workout (sweating sooner and in greater quantities), extending the time it takes for internal temperatures to build and heat-related fatigue to set in
  • When heading for workout or training, top off fluid to reduce the overall volume of water needed while exercising or training
  • Bring enough water/fluids or plan a route to access public water fountains, local corner stores, sprinklers, or hoses (if running or cycling) for a quick top-up on fluids
  • Overheated skin adds to discomfort – pouring water over the head creates a more comfortable feeling 
  • Maybe consider transferring exercise components to a pool (aqua exercise, kickboard swimming)

 Exercising/Training in Heat – Potential Mineral and Vitamin Loss

Adapted from “The Effect of Exercise and Heat on Mineral Metabolism and Requirements” by Carl L. Keen, 1993 – with modification by M. Schloder

Heat-exposed workout or training can lead to a large amount of sweat and thereby a loss of water-soluble vitamins and minerals, affects the level of micronutrients required and an increase of vitamins and minerals. In addition to water loss, the body also casts off electrolytes such as potassium, sodium, and minerals in the blood, urine, and bodily fluids that contain an electric charge.

There has been increasing interest in the idea that individuals engaged in strenuous exercise may have an increased need for several essential minerals. The idea resulted in a widespread perception that mineral supplements may be advantageous. This concept is based on two basic views: (a) individuals engaged in strenuous exercise have a higher requirement for some minerals compared to sedentary ones due to increased rates of urinary and sweat losses of select minerals, and (b) the perceived inadequate intake of some minerals results in a lowering of endurance capacity and ultimately leading to the development of some disease states. Although a significant number of athletes, coaches, and professionals in sports medicine believe in the beneficial effects of mineral supplements, few data support a positive effect of dietary mineral supplementation on athletic performance. Nevertheless, strenuous exercise does influence the metabolism of several minerals, and the number of minerals lost via sweat (due to either intense heat or exercise) can be significant.

Magnesium

Prolonged strenuous exertion can result in the reduction of plasma magnesium concentration, attributed in part to an increased rate of magnesium loss via sweat. Given that marginal magnesium deficiency can present a significant health risk to an athlete, more studies are needed to define the functional consequences of exercise-and heat-induced reductions in plasma magnesium concentrations.

Iodine – Chromium – Selenium

Effects of exercise and heat on Iodine, Chromium, and Selenium metabolism have been studied since 1966 through the 1980s, mostly in 38.5 temperatures during the day and 33.1 at night. According to research findings, sweat-associated iodine loss can be significant. Like iodine, limited literature on the influence of exercise and heat on selenium metabolism exists, although it has been suggested that athletes may benefit from selenium supplements due to its role in glutathione peroxidase synthesis. There is, however, no compelling evidence that selenium supplementation is necessary for individuals engaged in endurance activities (Lane, 1989; Lang, Gohil, Packer & Burk, 1987).

Chromium deficiency per se has not been accepted as a health problem in endurance athletes. However, it seems, given the above findings, chromium status of athletes engaged in strenuous activity for prolonged periods of time should be monitored, particularly if the activity is performed in a hot environment where chromium losses in sweat are predicted to be high. 

Iron

It is well recognized that iron-deficiency anemia can be associated with diminished performance in maximal and submaximal physical exercise (Andersen & Barkve, 1970; McDonald & Keen, 1988). However, there is considerable controversy about the extent to which exercise contributes to the development of iron deficiency. There is a common perception that athletes as a group tend to have a high incidence of anemia compared to the sedentary populations, but surveys of elite athletes have typically not supported this idea (Brotherhood, Brozovic, & Pugh, 1975; de Wijn, de Jongste, Mosterd, & Willebrand, 1971; Stewart, Steel, Toyme, & Stewart, 1972). Thus, overt iron-deficiency anemia does not appear to be a common complication of chronic intense exercise. 

Zinc

Findings show that there are short-term effects of exercise on zinc metabolism. However, immediate physiological consequences are not known. Given frequent observation of exercise-induced hypozincemia, and the potentially high amounts of the element that can be lost via sweat, there may be a need for zinc supplementation in situations where prolonged exposure to exercise and heat is anticipated. Nevertheless, caution has to be used when advocating zinc supplements because this element at high levels can interfere with copper absorption due to the similar physiochemical properties of zinc and copper (Keen & Hackman, 1986). Chronic (more than 6 weeks) consumption of zinc supplements in excess of 50 mg per day has been linked to the induction of copper deficiency in humans (Fischer, Giroux, & L’Abbe, 1984; Fosmire, 1990; Prasad, Brewer, Shoomaker, & Rabbani, 1978; Samman & Roberts, 1988). 

Summary

Prolonged strenuous exercise can result in marked changes in chromium, copper, iron, magnesium, and zinc metabolism. Evidence of these changes can persist for several days after the exercise. Some of the observed changes in plasma mineral concentration may be attributed in part to an acute-phase response, which occurs as a result of tissue trauma or stress. Reductions in plasma mineral concentrations may also reflect in part an increased loss of these minerals from the body via urine and sweat. The increased rate of mineral loss that occurs in sweat with exercise is amplified by the simultaneous exposure to hot temperatures.

Hydration, Sodium, Potassium, and Exercise: What You Need to Know

The following is additional information on the topic. 

Adapted from “Hydration, Sodium, Potassium, and Exercise” by Perrin Braun (2018, January 4) – with modification by M. Schloder

Our bodies are mostly comprised of fluid, which means every cell, tissue, and organ needs enough water to function. While plain H20 is the most important part of hydration, athletes also need electrolytes like potassium and sodium to perform at their best. In addition to water, the body loses electrolytes through sweat. Chloride, potassium, and sodium are major electrolytes, minerals in the blood, urine, and bodily fluids that contain an electric charge. The body’s cells use electrolytes to carry electrical impulses that help the cells communicate with each other and provide the ability to taste, see, smell, touch, and hear.

Do Athletes Have Special Hydration Requirements?

How much water should athletes drink? This varies depending on the volume and intensity of the workout/exercise, and how much sweat is lost. However, there are ways to gauge whether the athlete has hydrated enough. One way is to monitor urine. Light-colored urine means probably adequately hydrated whereas dark, concentrated urine can indicate not consuming enough water. Athletes should weigh in before and after workouts – weight loss that occurs directly after a workout is likely to be caused by a fluid reduction.

During the first hour of exercise, athletes should rehydrate with water. Basic guidelines from the American College of Sports Medicine as a reference point are helpful, and then adjust water intake to fit hydration needs: 

  • At least 4 hours before exercise drink about 2-3 milliliters (mL) of water or a sports beverage per pound (lb.) of body weight. 
  • For instance, a 150-lb athlete needs to drink 300-450 mL, which equals about 10-15 ounces of liquid 
  • Consume approximately 8 oz. of fluid every 15 minutes after exercise; consume about 16-24 flu oz. of fluid for every pound of body weight lost during exercise.

Importance of Sodium

Many people associate sodium with high blood pressure, heart disease, and canned foods, but it serves important functions in keeping the body healthy:

  • Maintains fluid balance in the cells 
  • Helps to transmit nerve impulses throughout the body 
  • Helps muscles contract and relax

Since sodium is found in so many foods, it’s fairly uncommon to develop a deficiency unless one is having a bout of excessive vomiting or diarrhea. If a lot of water is lost, a lot of sodium is lost as well. Symptoms of a deficiency include muscle cramps, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, and the inability to concentrate. ‘Hyponatremia’ is a dangerous condition in which there is not enough sodium in the body fluids. Symptoms can be absent, mild or severe. Mild symptoms include a decreased ability to think, headaches, nausea, and poor balance. If the deficiency becomes very serious, the body can go into shock and the circulatory system can collapse. 

Conversely, if athletes’ diets contain too much sodium (Hamburger, French fries, etc.), the body tissues tend to retain water. The 2012 American Heart Association recommends that people consume no more than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day – just a bit more than 1/2 teaspoon of salt. For comparison, a medium order of fast-food French fries contains about 260 milligrams of sodium. A recent study reported that Americans are consuming even more sodium – 8% more in 2010 than in 2001. Consuming too much salt can cause the kidneys to retain water, which may result in increased blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. 

Importance of Potassium

In addition to helping to maintain a proper fluid balance in the body, potassium also performs the following functions:

  • Keeps the blood from clotting
  • Maintains the body’s pH balance
  • Carries nutrients to the cells
  • Protects the stomach lining from the damage that could be caused by stomach acids
  • Maintains healthy blood pressure
  • Promotes heart health
  • Preserves bone health

Athletes should be especially concerned with potassium intake as it plays a role in the storage of carbohydrates to fuel the muscles. In addition, the frequency and degree to which the muscles contract depends heavily on having the right amount of potassium in the body. If there is not enough potassium in the diet, or when the movement of potassium through the body is blocked, nervous and muscular systems can become compromised. The Adequate Intake (AI) for potassium is 4.7 grams per day, but most Americans don’t consume enough potassium in their diets.

One reason for our low potassium levels is that Americans generally don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Bananas are a great source of potassium which helps to promote muscle recovery. Fresh fruits, especially citrus and melons, and vegetables, especially leafy greens, and broccoli, are also rich in potassium. One can also find the mineral in fish, most meats, and milk. Sweet potatoes and legumes like Lima and Kidney beans are also high in potassium.

Since potassium is lost through sweat and urination, athletes need to consume daily potassium-rich foods because low potassium levels can reduce energy and endurance levels. A recent Australian study with highly trained athletes showed that drinking a caffeinated beverage immediately before exercise could help to maintain adequate potassium levels in the blood and delay fatigue during workout. The body definitely will indicate if one is not hydrated. If experiencing muscle cramping or high levels of thirst, get your potassium and sodium levels checked. 

Suggested Drink Plan: 2 Liters is Optimal 

Here are some suggestions from German Health and Fitness experts, cited from “Gesund und Fit” [Healthy and Fit], Freizeit Revue, No 29, 2019.

Athletes often complain that water is ‘just too bland’, and their intake may not be enough. For that reason, some flavour combinations like lemon or herbs or Apfelschorle (Apple Spritzer) is added. 

TimesFluidAmount
Breakfast1 glass water  1 cup of tea200 ml 200 ml
Morning2 glasses of water400 ml
Lunch1 large glass Apfelschorle300 ml
Afternoon2 glasses of water400 ml
Dinner2 cups of herbal tea300 ml
Before Bedtime1 glass water200 ml

Summer Olympics 2020 in Tokyo, Japan –Athlete Preparation and Humidity

The following was received from SIRC (Canadian Sports Information Centre), Ottawa, Canada. It looks like a vitamin, but it’s really a computer. This computerized pill is helping Canada’s high-performance athletes prepare for the heat at the upcoming Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

The “BodyCap” is an ingestible computer used to monitor athletes’ core temperatures

After tracking the temperature during warm-up. pre-race cool-down, and competition, data can be downloaded via BlueTooth for analysis

The technology is being used to help athletes prepare for the Tokyo Olympics where extreme heat conditions are expected

Check out the video featuring Evan Dunfee and the Canadian Sport Institute Pacific’s Trent Stellingwerff: https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1310010435505/

References: 

Andersen, H.T., & Barkve, H. (1970). Iron deficiency and muscular work performance: An evaluation of cardio-respiratory function of iron deficient subjects with and without anemia. Scand. J. Lab. Invest. 25(suppl. 144), 1-39. [PubMed: 4283878]

Barker, J. (2019, July 29). Don’t sweat the weather – adapt to it. The Calgary Herald. C2.

Braun, P. (2018, January 4). Hydration, sodium, potassium, and exercise: What you need to know. Blog. ‘Cutting-edge information for curious people.’ Retrieved August 3, 2019, from http://blog.insidetracker.com/hydration-sodium-potassium-and-exercise-what-you

Brotherhood, J., Brozovic, B., & and Pugh, L.G. (1975). Haematological status of middle-and long-distance runners. Clin. Sci. Mol. Med. 48, 139-145. [PubMed: 1116332]

de Wijn, J.F., de Jongste, J.L., Mosterd, W., & Willebrand, D. (1971). Haemoglobin, packed cell volume, serum iron and iron binding capacity of selected athletes during training. J. Sports Med. Phys. Fitness 11, 42-51. [PubMed: 5578266]

Echo der Frau (2019, July). Die besten Wohlfühl-Tips für heisse Tage. Meine Gesundheit [The best wellness tips for hot days. My health], Echo der Frau, No. 29, p. 54.

Fischer, P.W., Giroux, A., & L’Abbe, M.R. (1984). Effect of zinc supplementation on copper status in adult man. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 40, 743-746. [PubMed: 6486080]

Fosmire, G.J. (1990). Zinc toxicity. Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 51, 225–227. [PubMed: 2407097]

Freizeit Revue (2019, July). Gesund and Fit [Healthy and Fit]. Freizeit Revue, No. 29, p. 72.

Keen, C.L. (1993). The effect of exercise and heat on mineral metabolism and requirements. Nutritional needs in hot environments. Washington, DV: National Academies Press. Applications for military personnel in field operations. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. Editor: Bernadette M. Marriott. Retrieved August 3, 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK236242/

Lane, H.W. (1989). Some trace elements related to physical activity: Zinc, copper, selenium, chromium, and iodine, pp. 301-307 in Nutrition in Exercise and Sports. J.E. Hickson, & I. Wolinsky (Eds.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Lang, J.K., Gohil, K., Packer, L., & Burk, R.F. (1987). Selenium deficiency, endurance exercise capacity, and antioxidant status in rats. J. Appl. Physiol. 63, 2532-2535. [PubMed: 3436884]

Mayo Clinic (n.d.). Heat and Exercise: Keeping cool in hot weather. Healthy Lifestyles. Fitness. Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/%20exercise/art-20048167

Neue Post (2019, July). Zu wenig Flüssigkeit (Too little fluid), Neue Post, No. 29, p. 49.

Prasad, A.S., Brewer, G.J., Shoomaker, E.B., & Rabbani, P. (1978). Hypocupremia induced by zinc therapy in adults. J. Am. Med. Assoc. 240, 2166–2168. [PubMed: 359844]

Pritikin Center (n.d.). Fitness tips from the Pritikin Exercise Physiologists. Blog. ‘Getting Fit’. Retrieved August 2, 2019, from https://www.pritikin.com/your-health/healthy-living/getting-fit/1373-the-heat-is-on-6-tips-for-exercising-safely-in-hot-weather.html

Samman, S., & Roberts, D.C. (1988). The effect of zinc supplements on lipoproteins and copper status. Atherosclerosis 70, 247-252. [PubMed: 3365292]

SIRC (2019, August 1). ‘Sci-fi’ pill helps Canadian athletes prepare for extreme temperatures. SIRC News (Canadian Sport Resource Information Centre. Email. Retrieved August 4, 2019, from email and https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1310010435505/

Stewart, G.A., Steel, J.E., Toyne, A.H., & Stewart, M.J. (1972). Observations on the haematology and the iron and protein intake of Australian Olympic athletes. Med. J. Austr. 2,1339-1343. [PubMed: 4649993]

Tip of the Month – July 2019

Coach Monika Says…


Sitting with Faulty Hand/Finger Position Creates ‘Bad Habits’

I have observed the sitting postures of athletes during instruction and training sessions (coach talking/athletes sitting) and conditioning or exercise practices. I also see adult spectators at various sporting events with faulty/incorrect hand placement when sitting on the ground, floor, grass, or on bleachers. 

The arms are usually straight or ‘locked’ with hand placement backward or sideways as demonstrated in the pictures. The argument is usually the same… “It feels so much better sitting that way.” True – but our arms do not flex or bend in that direction, and the incorrect hand/finger placement actually forms ‘bad habits!’ If you ever slip and fall the automatic reaction is to reach backward with straight arms and hands facing away from the body … resulting in one or two broken elbows or arms! Hospital reports indicate the frequency of such events. I learned from coaching gymnastics where we teach the correct and safe way to fall and how to absorb the shock in forward, backward, or sideways falls… these become lifelong skills! 

This past January, I slipped on ‘black ice’ outside my garage and fell. I broke the right ankle but arms and elbows were fine due to my trained reaction in falling! Therefore, always place hands and fingers facing forward toward your feet when sitting down or exercising!



Nature Versus Nurture – The Debate Continues

The expression ‘nature and nurture’ is actually derived from ancient Greek (ἁπό φύσεως καὶ εὐτροφίας – by nature and process), and has been in use since medieval England and France. In the twentieth century, studies of twins separated at birth were thought to settle the debate, namely that human behavioural development is affected both by peoples’ natural disposition and the environment in which they are raised. 

And… the debate continues: is human development ‘nature versus nurture?’ The outcome is almost always the same as researchers still disagree whether it is determined by a person’s genes influenced by genetic inheritance and other biological factors or due to the environment, either prenatal or during one’s lifespan. Nurture is generally said to be the influence of external factors after conception e.g. the exposure, experience, and the learning process of an individual. The view that humans acquire all or almost all their behavioural traits from ‘nurture’ was termed tabula rasa (“blank slate”) by John Locke in 1690. This view in human developmental psychology assumes that human behavioural traits develop almost exclusively from the environmental influences that were widely held during much of the 20th century.

Determinants of Athletic Potential: Nature versus Nurture?

The ‘nature versus nurture’ question surfaces in athletics as well, especially in the world of elite sports. Two main theories aim to explain both arguments: the genetic influence model and the training/practice model. Are world-class athletes born or bred? Is there a certain amount of practice that can turn the average athlete into an elite competitor? Coaches usually are committed to a developmental approach but they should not believe that an athlete’s progression is linear or the same for all because each athlete is unique. Therefore, those, who believe in process-oriented success need to accept that development, especially long-term and sustained development has to be nourished within each individual athlete. While coaches usually operate within a certain philosophical framework from which to proceed they also have to realize that unique growth within each athlete has to be nurtured. Therefore, the way in which each athlete learns and functions within the given program has to be explored and ultimately encouraged. In addition, it is critical that coaches consider the complex assortment of personal learning styles among their athletes. 

Adapted from “Nature vs. Nurture” by Dominique Stasulli (n.d.) on SimpliFaster.com – with modification by Schloder
Nature

The genetic model argues that a predetermined set of genetic traits predicts athletic potential and success. Physical traits are made up of many genes, which produce the ultimate elite ‘phenotype’ (identified as a set of observable characteristics of an individual resulting from the interaction with the environment), according to Tucker and Collins (2012). The four most influential: gender, height, skeletal muscle composition, and VO2max, which denote the differences in athletic male and female performances as proof of genetic predisposition to athletic potential. Height is developed by both nature and nurture (nutrition) and is very predictive of sport-specific success, for example, basketball, which is however not conducive to long-distance running. 

According to studies, the numbers of VO2max genes in untrained individuals, inherently genetic, are also activated through training influenced by the environment (Tucker & Collins, 2012). VO2max is a strong predictor of maximal aerobic capacity such as performance in endurance-based events. Being genetically gifted with a superior aerobic capacity automatically places the athlete in an advantageous position to advance to the elite level. Skeletal muscle properties are subject to similar genetic and environmental influences. Athletes born with greater strength capacity in musculature have an easier time transitioning into strength-based sports such as football or wrestling, according to research.

The international dominance of East African runners in middle- and long-distance events is well-known as 85% of the top 20 rank in the world are primarily from Kenya and Ethiopia (Vancini, Pesquero, Fachina, Andrade, Borin, Montagner, & de Lira, 2014). These athletes are found to have a high volume of VO2 max, hemoglobin, hematocrit, optimal muscle fibre type composition as well as a high tolerance to altitude, combined with their training pattern of optimal running economy. Their diet includes rice and beans, which is also seen beneficial to their development Researchers consider this as the possibility that genetic factors have yielded an advantage, especially genes responsible for anthropometric, cardiovascular, and muscular adaptations to training (Vancini et al., 2014).

Nurture

Likewise, there are environmental factors that may play a role in the success of these middle- and long-distance runners. Physiological adaptations, diet and nutrition, as well as socioeconomic factors are potential considerations. Certain physiological parameters have measured higher in this population, such as total hemoglobin, VO2 max, and hematocrit. This is attributed to the altitude at which they live and train in the range of 2,000-2,500 meters (6,500-8,200 feet) (Wilber & Pitsiladis, 2012). Exceptional cardiovascular development may be the result of 86% of Kenyan and 68% of Ethiopian international elite athletes as children use running as a primary means of transportation to school (Wilber & Pitsiladis, 2012). VO2 max, the measure of maximal oxygen uptake, did not appear significantly dissimilar to other elite athletes of different nationalities despite their gap in performance, indicating that there is more than VO2 max that contributes to their success. Similar results were found with hematological values (Wilber & Pitsiladis, 2012).

The traditional East African diet is low in fat and composed of roughly three-quarters carbohydrates, derived mostly from vegetables, fruits, and high-glycemic-index grains such as ugali, a potato-based cultural food (Wilber & Pitsiladis, 2012). Even the staple drink is ‘chai’, a milky tea made with significant amounts of sugar, which serves as the main source of glycogen replenishment in athletes’ post-workout. Nevertheless, it can be said that socio-economic conditions provide a substantial amount of motivation to achieve a better quality of life as an individual and that individual’s immediate family. About half of Kenya’s population and 40% of Ethiopia’s is under the World Health Organization (WHO) poverty line, calling for a desperate need to utilize the gifted resources present throughout the generations of talented athletes.

While physiological parameters are impressive in these distance runners, they are not significantly superior to their elite counterparts in different countries. It could be a combination of genetic and environmental factors that develop into supreme athleticism and that phenomenal endurance capacity. The incorporation of the ‘deliberate practice’ model suggests engaging in sport-specific training during critical points of motor skill development (Tucker & Collins, 2012). ‘Deliberate practice’ is defined as ‘activities that possess complete focus on developing a particular aspect of sporting performance’, which may activate the athletic potential genes present in every healthy individual’s DNA. The model proposes that 10,000 hours of training over the course of a 10-year period allows an athlete to breach elite level status. According to the theory, any athlete who fails to meet this level of competition status must have violated the 10,000-hour/10-year rule in one capacity or another.

However, there are gaps in this model because it does not explain the reason some athletes reach elite/international levels in less than 10 years or with less than 10,000 hours of practice, or that some meet or exceed those requirements in training but fail to reach elite levels. So, other factors, genetic, mental, or emotional may either accelerate or hinder athletic development.

Natural Giftedness and Talent in Sports

The ‘nature versus nurture’ debate can broaden the argument of natural giftedness over learned ability in determining athletic talent potential. In essence, do natural talent and acquired talent both allow for the same potential to be achieved in the end? Tranckle and Cushion (2006) cite Gagné (1998) on the subject of innate and acquired talent, who describes his continuum in which aptitudes/gifts lie at one end and competencies/talent lie at the other. Gifts are genetically inborn, but may take maturation or informal learning for them to become fully expressed; talent, on the contrary, is developed methodically over time, and heavily influenced by external sources of motivation and opportunity. Most often, giftedness and talent are thought of as equal and interchangeable terms, though distinguishing between the two is important.

Being Gifted and Talent are Thought to be Equal Terms But Distinguishing Between the Two is Important 

Gagné (1998) created four categories of natural abilities: intellectual, creative, socio-affective, and sensorimotor (Tranckle & Cushion, 2006). These include the following subcategories, though not all-inclusive: reasoning, metacognition, innovation, retrieval fluency, originality, perceptiveness, empathy, leadership, and various components of the sensorimotor system. Intrapersonal features such as personality, motivation, temperament, and well-being all factor into the developmental process. On the other hand, environmental variables affect athletes’ development through physical, cultural, social and familial influences, in addition to program participation, and coaching intervention.

This continuum is not to say that athletes have to fall exclusively at either end of the spectrum. Some may start with natural giftedness, advance those gifts, and progress along the continuum to develop skills via environmental influences, with the end product being the total sum of their talent. Others may not be born with innate gifts, but rather begin higher up on the athletic continuum to master their skills in order to maximize their end-talent potential. Talent identification has sparked much debate, and it seems there is no conclusive methodology for recognizing and delineating talent from giftedness in athletes. As outlined, the distinction is important in order for coaches to know various ways to approach the developmental process through informal or formal teaching/training progression. The question remains still unanswered. According to Gagné’s continuum, it would seem as though giftedness allows for a premature advantage in the developmental process, i.e., starting with a ‘lead.’ It remains uncertain whether giftedness, skill acquisition, or a combination of the two is the optimal route for maximizing talent potential.

Schloder:

Over the many years of coaching, I have always reinforced hard work ethics and positive mindsets over natural God-given talent in athletes. We can embrace the gifted ones and push them to the top with relative ease but I find it far more rewarding to work with those, who have to put every ounce of effort in order to reach their goals without reliance on natural giftedness. Many of the so-called gifted athletes I have coached lacked not only work ethics but also motivation, ‘riding on their natural talent’ rather than pushing themselves toward the pursuit of excellence. Whereas hard-working athletes own each and every success and failure, the gifted ones can easily attribute failure to a lack of maximal work ethic. The inclusion of so-called ‘physical literacy’ (formerly called ‘general athleticism’) is the best way to develop athletic abilities within the Long-term Athlete Development Model (LTAD), a framework for optimal training, competition and recovery for each stage of the athletic development. Coaches who engage in this model and its practices are more likely to produce athletes who reach their full athletic potential. If coaches can tap into the potential in their athletes, then the genetic predilections can not only be maximized but also expanded upon to reach the best possible performance at higher levels.

References:

Gagné, F. (1998). A biased survey and interpretation of the nature-nurture literature. Journal of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, Vol. 21(3), 415-416. Cambridge University. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0140525X98321238

Gagné, F. (1999). My conviction about the nature of abilities, gifts, and talents. Journal for the Education of the Gifted. January 1999. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/016235329902200202

McLeod, S. (2018 update). Nature vs. Nurture in Psychology. Retrieved July 19, 2019, from https://www.simplypsychology.org/naturevsnurture.html

Schloder, M. E. (2017). Developing physical literacy for children and youth through fun, fitness, and fundamentals. [DVD and Interactive PDF book]. Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Arête Sports Website: www.coachingbest.com

Stasulli, D. (n.d.). Nature vs. nurture: Determinants of athletic potential. Blog. SimplyFaster. Retrieved July 16, from https://simplifaster.com/articles/nature-vs-nurture-determinants-athletic-potential/

Tranckle, P., & Cushion, C. J. (2006). Rethinking giftedness and talent in sport. Quest, 58, 265-282. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00336297.2006.10491883

Tucker, R., & Collins, M. (2012). “What makes champions? A review of the relative contribution of genes and training to sporting success.” British Journal of Sports Medicine, 46, 555-561.

Vancini, R. L., Pesquero, J. B., Fachina, R. J., Andrade, M. D. S., Borin, J. P., Montagner, P. C., & de Lira, C. A. B. (2014). “Genetic aspects of athletic performance: The African runners phenomenon.” Journal of Sports Medicine, 5, 123-127.

Wilber, R. L. & Pitsiladis, Y. P. (2012). “Kenyan and Ethiopian distance runners: What makes them so good?” International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, 7(2), 92-102.

Yan, X., Papadimitriou, I., Lidor R., & Eynon, N. (2016). Nature versus nurture in determining athletic ability. Basel: Karger. Med Sport Sci, 2016(61), 15-28. Genetics in Sport. Posthumus, Collins, M. (ed.). Genetics and Sports (2nd ed. revised).  DOI:10.1159/000445 238

Tip of the Month – June

Coach Monika Says…


Signs Of A Good Youth Coach

1. Help athletes to learn “life lessons” through sport

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2. Listen to athletes’ thoughts and opinions

ids communication illustration

3. Develop a positive rapport with athletes

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4. Support, encourage, motivate and inspire athletes

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5. Work together to set individual and team goals

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6. Help them to understand there is more to sports than just winning

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7. Win and lose graciously (coach and athlete)

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8. Encourage athletes to be the first to arrive and the last to leave the training

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9. Show respect for officials and never interfere with judges/referees

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Why Us ?

Shape Young Athletes
By Having FUN!

INTRODUCING:

Physical Literacy For Children And Youth
Through Fun, Fitness And Fundamentals

Available NOW! – Instant Download or 2-Disk Set

Watch the preview video below!

You will be astonished over the athletic accomplishments of these young athletes’ strength, flexibility, balance, etc.

Click here to purchase your copy today!

 Dr. Monika Schloder Welcomes You To The Home of CoachingBest

Your one-stop for Coaching Tips, Training, and Information for the Athletic Coach

Years of teaching and coaching experience in several sports have provided me with the ability to understand the physical, mental, and emotional requirements for developing beginner to elite level athlete in several sports. The ‘knack’ to analyze sport movement, in essence, detect errors and then develop creative corrections and drills to improve, maximize, and optimize performance – no matter the sport – is one of my greatest assets.

Dr. Monika Scloder, Summer Swim Camp- Turku, Finland

Professional Activities:

  • DVD Production: Swimming; Developing Physical Literacy; Athletic Training
  • Learning Facilitator, Canadian National Coaching Certification Program (NCCP), having educated nationally and internationally over 26,000 coaches to date
  • Certified Alberta NCCP Coach Developer (2016)
  • Speaker at International Congresses, Coaching Symposiums, and World Clinics
  • Master Coach in Residence, 1991-2004, for the Los Angeles based 84 Legacy of the Games (former Amateur Athletic Foundation or AAF), program developer for Inner City Minority Youth Education and Leadership
  • Author: Coaching Manuals in Swimming and Soccer
  • Co-author “Coaching Athletes: A Foundation for Success”

Honors:

  • Alberta 2008 Coach of the Year
  • Recipient of 14 International Teaching and Coaching Awards
  • 3M Teaching Fellowship Award for Outstanding Teaching at Canadian Universities
  • Recipient of numerous Teaching Excellence Awards, University of Calgary

At CoachingBest.com we offer sport consulting and coaching education to organizations worldwide with an emphasis on current issues, physical literacy, athlete development, performance analysis, and improvement

Visit our Website CoachingBest.com for ‘Tips of the Week’ and sign up for the free Monthly Newsletter


Dr. Schloder has developed a series of Training DVD’s to help Coaches and Athletes
Image of all DVD product covers

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ASCA Workshop Conference and Presentation

Happenings from November

With Coach Rebecca Atchley – Dr. Schloder was an External Committee Member for Rebeca’s Masters Project Dr. Schloder’s Workshop Presentation

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Conference Photos

Happenings from September

Latest Happenings!!

 Dr. Monika Schloder at the ASCA World Clinic for Swimming, Jacksonville, Florida, Sept 8, 2014 Presenting at the 4-hour Work shop “Dry-land School for Age Group Swimmers” Coaches participate in her workshops… they don’t just sit!

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Back Arch Demo

Coach Schloder in Istanbul, Turkey Swim Camp , June 9-15

Underneath the swimmer to demonstrate the back arch position after the Back Crawl start. Not too many coaches can do this perfectly!

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Developing Physical Literacy

This highly acclaimed presentation was given by Dr. Schloder at the Canadian Sport for Life Summit (CS4L), which will be available as a movie version. Watch for the up-coming DVD: ‘Physical Activities for Children and Youth. Fundamental Movement Skills in the Pursuit of Excellence and Well-being.’

View page »

3 comments

  1. Michèle Boutin

    Dear Dr. Schloder,

    We are a small competitive swimming club in Beaconsfield, Quebec, Canada.
    We are interested in purchasing your DVD+Booklet called Fly Away but it is not available on your online shop.
    Could you please let me know how we could purchase it?

    Best regards,

    Michèle Boutin
    Beaconsfield Bluefins Swim Club
    http://www.bluefins.ca

  2. Augusto Acosta

    I love your work!

  3. Kim Cox

    Super new front page on your website, very informative.

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