Sport psychology task – How many words?

I was asked a question the other day by one of my Sport and Exercise Science students… “How many words describe triathlon?”

This one a great question, and a somewhat mind journey of an answer too. It is in fact an exercise i did with a sport psychologist many years ago. So, here is my take on it with triathlons. Yet having thought about all the words in my list below, the final one stuck in my head.

Triathlon… Swimming, cycling, running, competing, training, eating, fasting, avoiding sugar, avoiding fat, weighing scales, bike, carbon frame, deep section wheels, disc wheel, aero, helmets, tri suit, chamois, technique, body roll, kick board, 50 m sprints, hills, intervals, drills, goggles, wetsuit, open water swimming, Long runs, protein, beetroot juice, creatine, vitamin D, triathlon cycling shoes, running shoes, elastic laces, mid foot strike, strength and conditioning, Core stability, sweating, breathing, bilateral breathing, the catch, pull bouy, shaved legs, cycling tan, brick sessions, early mornings, hydration, 30 minute window, saddle sores, electrolytes, watt bike, sacrifice, pain, crying, winter, blisters, muck off, sunglasses, race belt, sprint, suncream, chamois cream, baby oil, paddle, flippers, grit, toughness, injury, motivation, Cold baths, flexibility sessions, top 10, winning, 5th place.

5th place. It was only when I really thought about it that I recalled having achieved a lot of 5th places. In fact my last four races have been 5th places and that is something I need to crack. However I don’t think I would’ve focused on this as much if I hadn’t done the little exercise above. Now i will be aiming for 4th.

So I encourage you to make your own list and see which things come up for you. 

One last thought I will give you to go away with touches on one of the words above, and that is motivation. The one thing that always comes into my head when thinking about motivation to go out on my bike or complete the last two intervals in the pool is this; 

“You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for”

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The end of getting faster?

Year on year we hear about athletes breaking new records beyond what was once thought as being humanly impossible. But will there be a day where we can no longer improve our physical abilities?

A recent presentation by David Epstein (TED) brought together a number of intriguing historical statistics up against our more recent achievements. He explains that over the last 108 years the winner of the Olympic marathon has become an hour and 20 minutes faster. This is similar with the likes of Jesse Owens and Usain Bolt in the 100m sprint.  The record time of Owens was 10.2 seconds compared to Bolt’s 9.58 seconds. That shows a clear increase in speed, strength and power, yet it is not all down to the thought that we are naturally getting better at what we do. Epstein explains that in both of these running events, previous athletes ran on the cinders of burnt wood which would have made a huge difference to the grip an athlete has under the foot. Compared to the synthetics of todays running tracks. Also the use of lighter and stiffer running shoes help the athlete to generate a more efficient running technique.

There are other things that come into play that may help us understand why we are getting faster in certain sports. For example, many youngsters in primary schools have the chance to compete in many different sports. By the time these youngsters reach high school they could well be training in a professional fashion, that is, eating correctly, training correctly, and using the best equipment. So to some it is no wonder that these increases in ability have come about.

The second point that Epstein makes highlights the selection process, or suitability, of athletes in particular sports. Activities such as basketball, sprint cycling, swimming, and horse riding are just a few sports that require specific physiological body shapes. In his own words “the large got larger, and the small got smaller”. All in all to suit a particular sport.

In a sports such as cycling and the Tour de France there are many different shapes and sizes. Some explanation for this is dependent on the type of rider that the cyclist is. For example, they could either be an exceptional climber, time trailer, or sprinter, or maybe even good at all 3 (more commonly known as a domestic rider or domestique). And this will depend predominantly on the type of leg muscles they have.

All shapes and sizes

This may also be the case in triathlons as there are three different disciplines to master (swimming, cycling, and running). Not only this, there are a variety of different distances that a triathlete may focus on. From my own experience, anything from Sprint up to Olympic distance triathletes share a similar body shape. That being very slim and lean, with a low body fat percentage. Nevertheless, the height of such triathletes tends to differ greatly and may not have that much of an impact on performance. Yet the geometry of triathletes at these distances show similarities, for example, arm and leg length in proportion to the rest of the body.

However, many of the Ironman athletes show a slightly different physique despite having the same three disciplines. As with most endurance events one of the key things to consider is power vs weight. The lighter the athlete, the better they can perform at a certain power output. So having done a little bit of research and looked at the top 10 finishers in different ironman races my conclusion was this: Top Ironman triathletes generally hold a lean body shape and tend to be 6 foot and under. They also show signs of increased upper body muscle mass in the shoulders and biceps to possibly suit the length of the Ironman swim (usually 3.9km). In general they tend to hold a slightly stockier build to that of a Sprint or Olympic distance triathlete. Although, further scientific research may uncover something more surprising.

Pete Jacobs 179cm (5’9″)

So with Epstein’s  two points of improvements in technology and the improvements in selection and suitability, my question still stands. What would happen when technology is unable to improve sport any further? Is it the simple possibility that technology is the sole influence in the improvement of our athletes? And when technological improvements stop, will our athletes continue to strive to become faster, higher and stronger?

The impact of having athletes that are faster, fitter and stronger is what captivates the public. The possibility of a new humanly impossible record. What if that were no longer???

10 things about Greek yogurt

Many athletes train a significant amount of time during the week. But I have a hunch that the last 20 minutes of a work out, or even the entire duration of a workout, is spent thinking about what to eat once your done training. The thought process for me starts healthy. A lovely piece of turkey and salad that you left in the fridge is quickly turned into a flavour exploding stir fry or curry. My brain tends to start this way also, but turkey and salad tends to be seen as protein and carbs. Then without knowing where the time has gone, I’m making fish and chips :-/

Ever since the moment my auntie gave me a chocolate button at 2 months old, I have had a sweet tooth. And I thank my auntie for that. Yet, when in training staying away from sugar at dessert time is a tough thing to do. Hello Greek Yogurt…

1. Greek yogurt was originally made in Greece, clearly…Made from milk, it goes through a process that reduces the excess fluid which gives Greek yogurt its stiff texture.

2. Due the processes used, Greek yogurt tends to be lower in lactose and carbohydrates, but manages to hold on to a good level of protein.

3. Greek yogurt is not only good to use as a dessert with berries and nuts, it is able to hold its texture in hot dishes without curdling and ruining your food.

4. In terms of vitamins Greek yogurt offers a good level of vitamin D. For those of us like to train, vitamin D has a positive effect on the structure and function of skeletal muscle, especially in older athletes as they are more susceptible to muscle degeneration. (Hamilton, 2011: Asian Journal of Sports Medicine)

5. The most common use of this think yogurt is in the making or tzatziki, which is a greek dip or sauce used in many Greek dishes. It is easy to make yourself.

6. Unfortunately the supermarkets will store a range of Greek yogurt varieties. Steer clear of the not as healthy Greek ‘style’ yogurts. These may not use the same processes or milk types that produce the high vitamin D and protein, and the low lactose carbohydrate, yogurt we love so much.

7. You can get yourself 10.3g of protein and only 4g of carbs in a 100g serving of Greek yogurt

8. Greek yogurt is highly recommended for those who are pregnant, simply because of the nutrition one can get from it.

9. Many curry’s or moroccan dishes require the use of natural yogurt, even a number of Italian dishes like to add a bit of ricotta or creamed cheese. STOP! There is nothing wrong with a bit of experimenting in the kitchen using Greek yogurt.

10. Dessert recipe…get yourself your desired dollop of Greek yogurt in a bowl (don’t be too greedy), and add a teaspoon of Nutella. Miss this in well and then add some chopped nuts and sliced banana. Nutella is nutritionally sound and is packed with the good fats that we require. Plus with its powerful hazelnutty flavour, you don’t need too much of it in this dessert dish. Which means the jar of Nutella can last a bit longer. Everyones a winner!!!

There are a few different types of good greek yogurt brands out there. Supermarkets may well do their own version. For me however, I prefer the ‘Fage Total 0%’ Greek yogurt.

If you try one thing in the off-season, it should be Greek yogurt

@_granto