Many athletes overwork their bodies to pursue excellence in sports.

Basketball players often sustain knee injuries; football players frequently strain their hamstrings; gymnasts are prone to back injuries. All athletes who exercise too hard and too frequently are at risk of developing overtraining syndrome; wherein the body isn’t given enough time to recover between workouts. Also, athletes metabolize energy quickly and sweat out many essential nutrients. Without maintaining a proper diet, athletes’ bodies are unable to repair muscles, bones and tendons damaged during workouts.

With all the careful consideration athletes must maintain to stay healthy, it’s no surprise so many players wind up on the sidelines every season. If you’re an athlete who tends to ignore your body’s signals to slow down, take five or stop, read these important health tips from Foothills Sports Medicine in Phoenix.

  • Stay hydrated.
    In the summer, at our centers throughout the Valley, we regularly see athletes who aren’t properly hydrated. Without water, the volume of blood in your body decreases. This reduces your ability to transfer heat and forces your heart to beat faster, often limiting your ability to perform. In a recent health study, runners ran a 12K race 2.5 minutes slower when they were dehydrated. Dehydration can also cause muscle cramping and fatigue. The Phoenix sun is incredibly powerful – keep a water bottle with you at all times.
  • Eat just enough protein.
    Most athletes know that protein helps build muscle. Many athletes don’t know, however, that the body stores extra protein as fat. Experts recommend that endurance athletes eat about 90 grams of protein per day – it can be detrimental to your health to overindulge.
  • Sleep well.
    Optimal sleep means optimal performance. In 2009, Stanford University published a study which found that getting extra sleep over several weeks improves performance, mood and alertness for athletes. Many of the athletes participating in the study even set personal records after a few weeks of extra sleep. Turn up the A/C during those famously hot Phoenix summer nights – the cold will help you sleep better.
  • Skip the alcohol.
    Though alcohol has many negative effects on most anyone’s overall health, athletes should be particularly wary. Drinking alcohol decreases growth hormones and testosterone production, cancelling out gains made at the gym. It also impairs cognitive function while promoting dehydration, protein breakdown, and weight gain. Although it might be tempting to celebrate a hard-earned win with a night of heavy drinking, you’re limiting your athletic performance in the long run.
  •  Be consistent.
    Establish a weekly routine which works opposing muscle groups without overexerting any. Also, remember to stretch before and after every workout to prevent injury. Consistency yields the best results, so create a schedule you can stick to.

For more health and fitness advice, trust Foothills Sports Medicine in Phoenix. Visit one of our 15 locations for physical therapy you can trust to help you achieve your optimum level of comfort and fitness.

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Medicine balls are weighted balls usually from 4 to 20 pounds that can be lifted, thrown, or slammed to improve strength, speed, power and overall body explosiveness. Medicine ball training has been used for decades by strength and conditioning professionals because of their low load and because they can be used almost anywhere including on the sports field or in a rehabilitation setting.  However, traditional strength and conditioning programs – those programs which include lifting large amounts of weight to make athletes bigger and stronger – have largely eschewed medicine ball training because of one main factor; the inability to sufficiently overload the athlete, the cornerstone of any strength and conditioning program.

However, as research continues and the strength and conditioning field has gathered more knowledge, a new age of strength and conditioning is upon us. While loading the athlete is still important, today is the day of functional training. Often an overused phrase, functional training can be defined as training the body in the movement pattern and velocity with which it is used in the sport the athlete plays. More simply, to improve the athlete you must train them to perform the skills that their sport requires and most sports do not require lifting a great magnitude of weight. Medicine ball training fulfills this need; medicine balls can be used in a variety of ways to approximate the body movements that athletes use in actual sport activities. Medicine ball tosses with a twist can be used to simulate baseball and golf swings, chest passes can be used to replicate basketball chest passes and overhead tosses can be used to mimic soccer throw-ins.

Additionally, medicine ball exercises can be performed at a velocity at or near that of the actual activity with which they are simulating. This is in keeping with the strength and conditioning tenet of specificity which states that to improve a fitness variable you must train that fitness variable.

In conclusion, while traditional weight training still has a place in strength and conditioning programs, medicine ball training provides a lot of benefits and should play an important role in a functional strength and conditioning program. If you would like more information on how to incorporate medicine balls into your training program, contact a FAST facility near you at www.fast-training.com.

*Black and white athlete pictures from ptonthenet

A: Chocolate milk! That’s right. Not only does your body need stretching, food and rest to help rebuild muscle tissue, it also needs a balanced recovery drink just like mom used to make.

When: Post ride, run, swim, strength training, whatever…
Why: “The drink you loved as a kid has the ideal amount of carbohydrates and protein that tired muscles need for recovery,” says Joel Stager, Ph.D., director of the department of Kinesiology at Indiana University. Chocolate milk post exercise speeds up recovery better than sports drinks that may contain sugar and artificial flavors. Plus, regular milk is better than water or a sports drink at restoring fluid levels following a bout of exercise in the heat! Not to mention – milk contains bone-strengthening Vitamin D and Calcium.
Sipping Points: Single-serving containers are handy for tossing into a cooler for a post workout treat and for portion control.

Heart rate training is the single, most effective tool that endurance athletes have to measure and control the intensity of their workouts in a way that will allow for long-term athletic performance, via improved recovery and reduced risk of injury.

How does it work?

Heart rate training involves exercising at various intensities to utilize different energy systems within the body. It involves wearing a heart rate monitor to continually evaluate one’s heart rate throughout the workout. Adjustments to intensity of the exercise are made as necessary, in order to bring the heart rate to the appropriate designated zone.

How do people know what heart rate numbers/zones they need to work in?

There are several ways to determine someone’s training zones. One method is to have a VO2 max test, which is a treadmill test that measures one’s aerobic capacity. The limitations of this test are that it is expensive, requires the individual to wear a mask (not for the claustrophobic), and it can be difficult to reach maximum effort in a “lab” setting.

Another method is using the Karvonen formula. Karvonen is a universal formula which takes into account an individual’s resting heart rate, making it slightly more accurate than the well-known 220-age.
One advantage to training with Foothills Running Group is that as an RRCA-certified marathon coach, I have access to an exclusive tool that takes into account an individual’s resting heart rate, maximum heart rate, as well as a recent max effort, such as a 5k finish time, to project heart rate training & racing zones, as well as projected training paces and finish times. In my personal experience and in working with runners of various abilities, I have found that using a recent race finish time to gauge max effort is typically more accurate than a VO2 max test, as runners are usually able to push to a true max effort in a race environment than on a treadmill under observation with a mask on.

Once an individual has the appropriate training zones, then they are able to make the most of their training by ensuring they are training at the right intensity, based on their individual athletic abilities.

Stay tuned for more heart rate training information on this blog or visit our Foothills Sports Medicine Arrowhead Running Group Facebook page.

What is Altitude Training?

Altitude training, also known as hypoxic training, involves exercising in, living in or otherwise breathing oxygen reduced air for the purpose of improved athletic performance, pre-acclimatization to altitude and/or physical wellness.

Traditionally, individuals had to travel to or live at high elevations to obtain the benefits of this phenomenon. Through the production of the mountain air generators we can simulate altitudes of up to 21,000ft/6,400m. As a result, athletes, fitness enthusiasts and health conscious individual’s worldwide can take advantage of the benefits associated with altitude training while at sea-level.

Proven Benefits
     . Maximized speed and endurance
     . Elevated strength and power
     . Enhanced energy levels and overall wellness
Who Can Benefit?
     . Athletes
     . Mountaineers
     . Fitness Enthusiasts
     . Health Conscious Individuals

Why it works:

When the human body is exposed to hypoxia (oxygen reduced environments), it struggles to produce required amounts of energy with less available oxygen. This struggle triggers the onset of a range of physiological adaptations geared towards enhancing the efficiency of the body’s respiratory, cardiovascular and oxygen utilization systems.  Benefits can include an increase in Red Blood Cells and an increase in VO2 Max.

Watch how high altitude training works! Visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Me_w-dbVSUc to see how high altitude training has helped the Phoenix Suns become one of the best conditioned teams in the NBA.  The Foothills Sports Medicine Ahwatukee FAST facility offers high altitude training.  Click  here  and contact Jeff Bloom for more information.