What Makes Winter Olympians Such Good Athletes

Snowboarder Carving TurnIt’s time for the winter Olympics again and the athletes competing in the 2018 games are some of the best that the world has ever seen. What does an Olympian have to teach the rest of us about what it takes to succeed against the best athletes in the world?

They start training during summer

One of the most critical methods Olympians use for winter success is to gradually build up to peak condition. The best athletes in the US know that rushing progress is a recipe for disaster.

Consequently, they start training as early as possible on the way to peak performance. This typically means summer workouts. Olympians will use unlikely gear like wet suits and wheeled sleds to virtual-reality to simulate the sports they’ll compete in at the 2018 Olympic Games. The thrilling show we’ll all enjoy on TV is thanks to the novel techniques that have been invented to provide as much training time as possible before the big event.

Ski jumpers wearing swim suits

Ski jumps are a challenge to practice in the warm weather, jumpers rely on porcelain ramps and swimming pools for a soft landing. Although there is a facility in Utah that relies on moistened plastic to simulate a snow landing. Even as the weather gets chillier, competitors will continue practicing jumps into water – they just start using dry suits like divers who swim in freezing water.

The ski simulator

Skytechsport makes the ski simulator; it’s essentially a treadmill for skiers. Racers can strap themselves in and practice slaloms all day long in front of a movie screen projecting a realistic downhill course. Regardless how hot and dry summer is, the ski team can work on their technique and train their bodies to peak condition many months away from competition day.

Playing pretend for real-world results

Downhill SkiingMany research studies have proven that you can get better at any activity just be imagining that you’re doing it. It’s called visualization and athletes have been using it to be the best at their sport for decades.

Modern visualization techniques rely on unbelievably detailed mental images of not just the sport an Olympian trains for, but everything. Athletes are encouraged to imagine every part of their event, from the view from the bus getting to the stadium to the smell in the air.

Endless repetition is key

The biathlon combines cross-country skiing with rifle marksmanship, and biathlon competitors will spend the summer and fall sending tens of thousands of rounds down-range. All winter Olympians will endlessly carry out the movements that their sport requires; sometimes in the course of regular practice, but also in parts.

Regardless if it’s a trigger pull, hip movement or foot placement on a landing – every possible nuance is going to be explored and examined to see if it can be made more efficient, more accurate or simply stronger. Then these athletes will repeat those movements, endlessly, to reach perfection.

They develop laser focus

The secret to beating the competition at anything is focus. You could be the best at a sport, but if you can’t concentrate when it matters, you’re coming in last. Here’s what winter Olympians know about developing the unshakeable focus it takes to win.

First concentration is split up into four separate categories:

  • Many-outside: Seeing many elements of the entire situation, like when you’re looking over a soccer field or basketball court.
  • Few-outside: Seeing only one or two aspects of a situation. Useful for a biathlon shooter focusing on the target he’s aiming at.
  • Many-inside: Considering several thoughts at approximately the same time. This is crucial for Hockey coaches keeping track of all his players during a game.
  • Few-inside: Focusing on only one or two thoughts, like a bobsledder right before the big push off.

Hockey Player Down on IceWe’re all best at one type of concentration, so, coaches will evaluate an athlete’s best concentration category to take best advantage of their particular, best focusing ability. An athlete’s ability to concentrate can mean the difference between standing on the podium or watching from the audience after an event.

Olympians eat and drink to win

Arguably, this is the most important factor to winter Olympics success. These athletes have every calorie, gram of fat and protein, vitamin and amino acid calculated to provide them the energy, recuperative ability, and all-round health needed to perform at an elite level.

Everyone is familiar with swimmer Michael Phelps 10,000 to 12,500 calorie per day diet. This wasn’t his choice, it was what nutritionists determined he needed to consume to perform at his best. Winter or summer Olympics, each athlete must follow a specific diet that is calculated to keep them fighting fit for their big day in the spotlight.

Running for Life

Winter Outdoor Running

Running is one of the most popular ways to stay fit, and more people are taking up the sport every day. Before the 1980s, running was predominantly a man’s sport, but today, men and women, young and old, hit the streets and the trails for fun and fitness in the outdoors. Here’s a look at what makes running such an attractive sport for so many people.

Spend Time in the Outdoors

While some get their miles in on the treadmill, many people prefer to run outside, taking in the fresh air and enjoying the beautiful scenery.

If you live in the heart of a major city, though, check the air quality index in your area to make sure that it is safe to run outside. Look for parks and other open, green spaces to protect your lungs while running.

Control Your Weight

The amount of calories you burn while running depends on a number of factors, including your height, weight, age, gender and metabolism, to name a few. You can expect to burn approximately 100 calories per mile.

Even if you are a beginner and can only run a single mile, those calories will add up quickly if you run multiple times a week. As an added bonus, working out revs up your metabolism, so you continue to burn extra calories for hours after your run, helping to keep your weight in check.

Improve Cardiovascular Health

People Trail Running

Running gets your heart pumping, and any exercise that raises your heart rate helps to boost your cardiovascular health. Your heart is a muscle, and it gets stronger the more you push it. If you suffer from any type of heart condition, check with your doctor before beginning any new fitness regimen to ensure that you are exercising safely.

When you run, your lung capacity increases as well, helping your body to run more efficiently and making it easier to get through your daily activities, even on the toughest days. When you get through your chores and other tasks easily, you have more energy for fun things like playing with your kids or going out for drinks with friends.

Build Willpower and Determination

It takes some serious willpower to lace up your shoes and get out the door, especially when the weather isn’t ideal for running, like during the winter and when it rains. On days with bad weather, tap into your deepest reserves of willpower to get going.

Getting out the door is the hardest part, but as with any other skill, your willpower will improve the more you practice it. Before you know it, you’ll be lacing up those sneakers and hitting the road without giving it a second thought.

To get around excuses on bad-weather days, commit to running for just five minutes. That always seems manageable, which can make it easier to get going. Once you get started, you may find that you’re more than willing to keep on running.

Enjoy a Competitive Spirit

Road races have exploded in popularity in recent years, so it’s time to get in on the action. Don’t worry if you are still a novice runner; today’s races typically offer multiple distances for you to choose from. A 5k is just over 3 miles, so it’s an accessible distance for runners of all skill and experience levels. Some races even offer 1-mile runs, so it’s easy to get started.

From Turkey Trots on Thanksgiving morning to Valentine’s Day Undie Runs, numerous opportunities exist for you to get out and race throughout the year. Don’t worry about keeping up with the pack if their pace is too fast for you. Go at your own speed and shoot for a personal best. As your endurance level improves, you can start pushing yourself a bit harder to compete with other runners.

Get Fit with Friends

Outdoor Cross-Country Run

Running clubs are popping up all across the country, so there is sure to be one in your area, or you can start your own. Social media and other online platforms make the process easier than ever before. Look for a group that matches your running style and skill level.

For example, if you have a baby at home, look for a stroller running group. Similarly, if you prefer running on trails than roads, find a group that shares your interest in getting off the beaten path. Whichever running group you choose, you’ll be getting fit with like-minded people and may even make some lifelong friends in the process.

Get Your Zen On

One of the greatest parts about running is that it helps you to forget about all your worries and stresses. While you’re running, you’re often so focused on just pushing through the next quarter of a mile that all other thoughts are pushed from your mind. Without all that noise cluttering up your mind, you are free to just enjoy being in the moment.

It’s a sort of meditation in a way, giving you a zen feeling that will carry on long after your run is finished. As you run, feel free to let your mind wander. Many runners swear that they get their best ideas while running, because their minds aren’t bogged down with day-to-day details and have more freedom to think creatively.

The Elusive Runner’s High

We’ve all heard of runner’s high, one of the most incredible aspects of running. From time to time, you may get into that perfect rhythm with your stride where it feels like you could run forever. All the pain and stiffness melt away from your legs and you seem to just fly through the miles.

Never felt runner’s high? Don’t worry. It takes a bit of practice and training to get in good enough shape to the point where running feels good. Let this be your motivator: to feel truly free and on top of the world. Have a bit of patience. Once you hit that runner’s high for the first time, you’ll want to get that feeling back again and again.

Get Started Today

All you need to get started with running is a pair of comfortable, supportive shoes, which you probably have in your closet already. Taking that first step is always the hardest part, but once you get started, you may find a love for running that you never knew existed.

Mindfulness Doesn’t Have to be Hard

Mindfulness It’s Easier Than You Think

The kids are screaming, your boss isn’t happy, and it seems like your spouse is determined to do everything possible to annoy you – you need some of that inner calm everybody’s talking about!

Enter, mindfulness. That state of mind when you’re focused on the here and now. Being mindful is being able to observe your thoughts and emotions without judging if they’re good or bad. Instead of right and wrong, sad or happy, mindfulness is a state of mind where someone can maintain the calm needed to navigate experiences with crystal clarity.

It’s not as complicated or hard as it might seem. Let’s look at the origins of mindfulness, why it’s so popular now, how it helps you, and easy ways to start practicing mindfulness in your daily life.

Who Thought Up Mindfulness?

Stone Cairn BuddhistThe roots of mindfulness extend back over two and a half thousand years of the Buddhist tradition. Although Buddhism is religious, mindfulness practice is completely separated from religious practice and is increasingly accepted and used in western society.

This doesn’t mean you can’t also explore other Buddhist concepts and explore this Eastern religion further to deepen your understanding of mindfulness practice. But, mindfulness can be practiced by anyone regardless of religious background.

Western Science’s Approach to Mindfulness

There are two main approaches to mindfulness that have been developed over the last few decades. They are Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), and both are completely secular and can be taught over several sessions.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction

MBSR is a program that helps people learn how to calm mind and body so they can better cope with illness, pain, and stress.

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) was initially developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in 1979 at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, to aid people experiencing a broad range of both physical and mental health issues.

Group therapy sessionCurrently, thousands of people have taken their basic MBSR programs, which consist of intensive training in mindfulness techniques that allow students to use their own resources to respond more effectively to pain, stress, illness, and the challenges of daily life.

MBSR training has also been thoroughly developed in hospitals and clinics to help staff, medical students, and patients. Mindfulness is being taught in places as diverse as:

  • The inner-city
  • Prisons
  • Companies
  • Law firms
  • Universities
  • Schools
  • Government agencies

The evidence-based research concludes that MBSR is useful in helping relieve chronic pain and fatigue, depression, anxiety, and life stress. Incredibly, there’s even evidence it helps medical conditions like psoriasis and cancer (and others).

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy

This form of mindfulness was explicitly designed to help individuals overcome depression.

Mark Williams, Dr. John Teasdale and Zindel Segal have adapted mindfulness to prevent clinically-depressed people from relapsing. They call their approach Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT).

The goal of MBCT is to help individuals who have a tendency toward depression from relapsing. The thought process which makes them vulnerable to depressive relapse is called rumination (repetitively re-thinking negative thoughts). MBCT teaches mindfulness skills that can offer a new way of approaching daily experience. This will help prevent the repetition of negative thinking patterns and feelings that could lead to becoming depressed.

Benefits of Mindfulness Go Beyond Calmness

Recent studies have discovered that maintaining a mindful state (actively being aware and curious), will enable you to engage better with others, and create the perception that you’re more charismatic and trustworthy. Mindfulness puts you firmly in the present, which can make you more sensitive to changing context and perspectives. This state of mind helps someone even to foresee risks, resulting in fewer accidents.
Another study involving members of an orchestra who are frequently bored by playing the same pieces of music repeatedly, had half of them play using mindfulness while the other half played in a normal frame of mind. The musicians playing mindfully not only enjoyed the experience more, but even the audience showed an overwhelming preference for recordings of the mindful music performances.

A recent Harvard study examined the effects of mindfulness on the brain with neuroimaging, physiological measurements, and behavior tests. Researchers found that using meditation (the foundation of mindfulness), the brain created new gray matter. At the end of the study, there was more gray-matter density in the hippocampus (important for learning and memory) and the structures responsible for compassion, self-awareness, and introspection.

Easy Ways to Be Mindful Every Day

Let’s start with exactly what’s involved in being mindful: Mindfulness is just bringing your full awareness to what you’re experiencing at that moment. This isn’t rocket science, at other times it was simply called “pay attention to what you’re doing.” Expanding on that quote you not only pay attention to what you’re doing but refuse to allow your mind to take over your focus with thoughts, worries or concerns for the past or future. Therefore bringing your focus to the exact current moment that you are in.

While the fine details of mindfulness can be more complicated – if you just learn to focus on the now without worrying about what happened before or what you need to do about things later; you’re most of the way there.

Start with the Little Things

Begin by taking baby-steps. There are many daily activities that we practice mindlessly, that can easily be done mindfully.

Brushing your teeth: Instead of going through the motions robotically, try to focus on precisely what you’re doing. Focus on each part of your mouth, how you hold the brush, the movement of your hand and arm.

Meal preparation: Focus on the smells, textures, and taste of the ingredients. Immerse yourself in the process of assembling a meal. When you eat, pay attention to every part of the meal and where you’re eating it.

Getting dressed: Pay attention to all the details involved in getting dressed. From the color of your shirt to the texture of the pants you put on, experience the entire process without thinking about what you were doing before or what you may be doing next.

Mindful Housework: Doing routine chores is a perfect opportunity to practice mindfulness. From cleaning up after dinner to vacuuming the carpet, try placing every part of your attention on that activity.

Work Your Way Up to the Next Step

After you’ve practiced mindfulness on the more mundane and routine activities of your life, it’s time to take the next step: Other people.

Once you’re comfortable being mindful privately, explore mindfulness in your day-to-day interactions with other people to really improve your interpersonal relationships and communication skills!

  • Start with eye-contact. When you speak to someone, try to honestly see them. Look at their facial expressions, how they hold themselves (relaxed? Defensive?), and be aware of how what you say is affecting them.
  • Use mindfulness to listen carefully to everything people say to you (and how they say it). Try to pick out every nuance and change in mood during a conversation. Make sure that whatever you say is relevant to the discussion by focusing more on what you hear.
  • Try being more grateful. Being mindful of other’s actions includes being grateful for the things people do to help you. Did your spouse do the dishes? Then say thank you! Has your mindfulness made you more aware of how well your child is behaving lately? Let your son or daughter know how you feel.
  • Of Mindfulness There Need Not Be A Start and End Point

    sunset mindfulnessNow that you have the awareness of mindfulness begin exploring it and challenging yourself to remain mindful when your struggling to focus or being reactive. Pull in those wandering thoughts, concerns and feelings by acknowledge them and then put them aside for later consideration when it is practical.

Handstands for Strength

Handstands, The Jewel of Free Standing Strength & Conditioning Exercises

Handstand with Wall Assist
Type:
Strength and Conditioning
Repetitions:
3-5 Sets of 10-20 seconds depending on strength
Rest Period:
30 seconds
Main muscles worked:
Shoulders, Arms & Upper Back

The handstand is such a simple exercise but so frequently left overlooked. This is one that will advance all of your workout goals be them better strength and conditioning or to build bulk and mass. I also love the emphasis that they place on good form and balance. The amount of focus and concentration that you put into these will also help strengthen and activate your core muscles.

When you first start working on your handstand you’ll likely want to do them using the wall to assist with them. It helps take the balance and individual muscle strength converns out of the picture. As you develop better upper body strength they will become easier and you’ll likely begin to feel as though you don’t need the wall.

An incidental benefit of these is the inversion that you experience. Inversion is known to be good for your general circulation and create a very mild euphoric effect as you get more oxygen circulation throughout your body. Particularly in areas that struggle to get oxygen based on the effects of gravity

Freestanding Handstand

Work into this exercise slowly as you don’t want to cause any muscle tears

    Routine:

    1. Begin in a pushup position and walk your feet towards your chest
    2. Lift first one leg into the air
    3. Tighten your abdomin press your foot that is still onto the ground down then up into the air with that springlike tension
    4. As you raise your legs squeeze your core and glutes to support your legs
    5. Press firmly with your hands and support your core as you flatten your torso and complete the exercise – hold this position for your time
    6. Come down slowly and repeat, do the exercise smoothly so as to preserve strength and prevent injury

    If you struggle with retaining your balance while doing this exercise use the wall more

    When you start doing these well begin to do them without the wall and increase your hold times at the upright extended position

Convenience Store Drink Options Are Killing You!

Buying Beverages from a Convenience Store? You Might Want to Rethink That Strategy

Sugary Drink Choices
They’re named convenience stores for a reason. They’re everywhere, are typically open 24/7 and the classic small footprint makes them perfect for quick grab-and-go purchases.

What do consumers typically buy in convenience stores? According to the National Association of Convenience Stores, prepared food and cold beverages are driving the sector’s growth. That may be a good thing for the industry, but it’s not good for your health.

Aside from beer or other adult options (depending on where the c-store is located), the coolers likely present a bevy of soft drinks, from sodas and tea to juices and sports waters. Most people looking for healthier hydration know to stay away from the sodas, which are packed full of sugar and artificial flavors, but “healthy” energy drinks and fruit-flavored juices may attract you. Many of these beverages are made with fruits, lending to a healthier-looking label. In fact, many consumers do believe that skipping the soda for other sweetened beverages is a “healthy” option.

With so many bad-for-you things packed into the bottles, why do C-store coolers still offer so many unhealthy choices (and typically not nearly enough healthy ones?) Partly because beverage companies and distributers are still following traditional – and misguided – philosophies.

  1. Beverage companies use focus groups “average” Americans to determine product pushes.
  2. While focus groups are one way to get market information, they may not always be reliable. Focus group data is more difficult to control than other marketing data, and the interaction between people within the group can lead to skewed data. Beverage companies rely heavily on focus groups, though, attempting to gather what they consider “average” Americans to vet new product ideas or marketing campaigns. While surveys, interviews and other marketing tools may be deployed, it’s often the focus through that is the true focal point for decision making.

    The problem is that focus groups can’t possibly account statistically for the largest swaths of customers. Different groups, with differing lifestyles, needs and desires, are not fully accounted for, which is partly why c-stores don’t offer the widest selection of beverages.

    Focus groups may also be partly to blame for advertising and packaging that gives the impression that these drinks are healthy. While Americans are becoming more aware of labels, food and drink ingredients are still confusing to most. In a focus group, the wow factor of a marketing campaign is likely to make waves, despite what the reality behind it really is.

  3. Beverage companies believe sweetness ensures more people buy the products.
  4. And they are right: companies don’t stock things people don’t sell. More sweetened beverages are in C-store refrigerators because people are buying them. Why? First, because beverage companies are very adept at marketing. Second, because the average American has developed a taste for sweet beverages, and sugar can be addicting.

    Beverage company success in promoting these products prompt them to produce more. A growing desire for “healthier” options means that companies make drinks with less additives or other unhealthy ingredients, but the fact that sugary drinks sell faster in convenience stores than their unsweetened brethren means even healthy options have more than their fair share of sweetener.

    Soda turning to sugarThose buying these unhealthy drinks may not be aware of the consequences of consuming sweetened beverages and how it will affect them in the long run. Instead of investing development into unsweetened drinks and credible marketing, companies rely on sugar to push the bottles.

    And while it’s true that America’s sweet tooth is strong, it’s not just sugar doing the talking. Brands throw a lot of marketing muscle behind these drinks, so what if they did the same for actually healthier options? With consumers growing more health conscious, awareness campaigns informing the public about the risks involved in consuming more sweetened drinks and offering healthier options could change the tide in convenience stores (it’s already happening in grocery stores).

  5. Beverage companies produce overly sweet beverages full of chemicals that are counterproductive to good health on many levels
  6. Just because chemicals are considered safe doesn’t mean they’re healthy. Almost all beverages contain preservatives, which may not be unhealthy (they’re safe according to the FDA), but these drinks often contain zero nutrients. You may notice that some fruit juices have a shelf life of about a year, and that means a lot of preservatives were added to that drink. They might be safe, but do you really want to stuff your body with zero nutrient preservatives?

    Some of these chemicals include benzoic acid, which is useful in killing bacteria. This preservative, commonly used in food and drinks, is safe in small quantities. However, it may pose a risk in some instances. It becomes harmful when benzoates, which are derived from benzoic acid, react to certain chemicals like Vitamin C. Benzene, a carcinogen, may likely be produced. And you know how harmful this substance is. It promotes the formation of cancer, which is one of the leading causes of death in modern society. When you continuously consume sweetened beverages, you may be at risk for cancer.

    The FDA did say that the levels of benzene found in fruit drinks and other beverages shouldn’t worry consumers. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, though, and benzene isn’t the only chemical you’ll find in the convenience store cooler. Diet sodas are sweetened with chemicals known to cause health issues, including digestive distress, but the zero-calorie sweetness and carefully couched marketing keeps people coming back for more.

  7. Beverage companies put out low sugar products that people would be content to consume once per day for fear of disrupting their more addictive options.
  8. When Venezuela experienced a sugar shortage, Coca-Cola stopped production of its main product (which relied heavily on sugar). The brand also tried to expand while working to reduce the sugar content of their drinks. They distributed Diet Coke, Coke Zero and Coke Life, all which use no or little sugar. However, their sales dropped. Most people still preferred the addictive power of sugar.

    To a beverage company, sugar is a commodity. This ingredient, when mixed with others, can be powerfully addictive. Without it, brands know they won’t get as large a market share, and that’s especially true in a convenience store cooler, where low-sugar brands stand beside sweeter options. This is one reason beverage companies resort to producing more of these products.

    You might say, “that’s a culture problem, and brands are only supplying people what they want.” In some respects, this is true. It’s not 100 percent a beverage company’s responsibility to fix American eating and drinking habits. At the same time, knowing sweet drinks are addictive, brands are less likely to push a beverage that is going to be harder for consumers to refuse. A less sweet drink might be something you’d consume once a day, whereas a sugar-filled drink addition means two, three or even more servings a day for many people. That’s exponentially more sales for the brand.

  9. Beverage companies are willing to put heart-stopping levels of caffeine into energy drinks and other products.
  10. Caffeine, when taken in moderation, is good for you. Some of its benefits include:

    • Alertness
    • Helps you focus
    • Boosts your mood

    But caffeine is a stimulant, which is considered a drug by the FDA. When you consume drinks high in caffeine, you can become addicted to it. You may experience withdrawal symptoms when you suddenly stop. You may feel irritable, tired and not being able to concentrate. Getting headaches is also one of the symptoms.

    Most consumers aren’t aware that beverages in C-store drink refrigerators have high caffeine content. Beverage companies will tell you they use it only to enhance the flavor. But you know that’s not true. They sell caffeinated drinks because that’s what people want once they get addicted to it. When you buy more, they get a profit.

Rethink Your Drink

The key to good health is awareness. The next time you’re buying drinks, read the label. Check the ingredients and the number of calories per serving. If it’s more than your body needs, think again. Prioritize your health over your cravings if you want to live a healthy lifestyle.

If you really need to have a drink, consider those that promote good health like herbal tea. And water is always the best choice for hydration, purifying your body and boosting many organ functions. You may even find it in c-store refrigerators if you look past all the colorful sugary options.