Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Nun running Chicago Marathon hoping to raise $200K to renovate Our Lady of the Angels School building

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Too Much Training Can Tax Athletes Brains

September 26, 2019

Triathletes who trained too much chose
immediate gratification over long-term rewards,
researchers found.
Markus Büsges/EyeEm/Getty Images
Too much physical exertion appears to make the brain tired.
That's the conclusion of a study of triathletes published Thursday in the journal Current Biology.
Researchers found that after several weeks of overtraining, athletes became more likely to choose immediate gratification over long-term rewards. At the same time, brain scans showed the athletes had decreased activity in an area of the brain involved in decision-making.
The finding could explain why some elite athletes see their performance decline when they work out too much — a phenomenon is known as overtraining syndrome.
The distance runner Alberto Salazar, for example, experienced a mysterious decline after winning the New York Marathon three times and the Boston Marathon once in the early 1980s. Salazar's times fell off even though he was still in his mid-20s and training more than ever.
"Probably [it was] something linked to his brain and his cognitive capacities," says Bastien Blain, an author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at University College London. (Salazar didn't respond to an interview request for this story.)
Blain was part of a team that studied 37 male triathletes who volunteered to take part in a special training program. "They were strongly motivated to be part of this program, at least at the beginning," Blain says.
Half of the triathletes were instructed to continue their usual workouts. The rest were told to increase their weekly training by 40%.
The result was a training program so intense that these athletes began to perform worse on tests of maximal output.
After three weeks, all the participants were put in a brain scanner and asked a series of questions designed to reveal whether a person is more inclined to choose immediate gratification or a long-term reward. "For example, we ask, 'Do you prefer $10 now or $60 in six months,' " Blain says.
The answers showed a clear difference in overtrained athletes. "Those people were, in fact, choosing more immediate gratification than the other group of athletes," Blain says.
The scanner also revealed a difference. There was less activity in "a very little brain area, a little spot of the left prefrontal cortex that's impacted during decision-making," Blain says.
When there's lots of activity in that area, athletes are able to ignore signals from screaming muscles and focus on winning, Blain says. But when an athlete trains too hard, a sort of brain fatigue sets in and the activity level remains low and the person has less ability to push their body, he says.
Other research teams also have found evidence that physical exertion can affect both decision-making and brain activity.
"We find that people as they have repeatedly exerted effort over time, they tend to be less willing to continue exerting effort for rewards," says Tanja Mueller, a graduate student at the University of Oxford who wasn't involved in the study of triathletes.
But the brain may not be simply choosing between long-term goals vs. immediate gratification, Mueller says. The calculus may be more about cost and benefit.
Research by Mueller and Matthew Apps suggests that when the body becomes physically depleted, the brain begins to experience "motivational fatigue," which affects decision-making. When that happens, the brain "may not consider it worth it anymore to wait for higher rewards."
The brain appears to be constantly reassessing the value of a goal, says Todd Braver, a professor of psychological and brain sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.
"So your brain is doing these kinds of cost-benefit trade-offs all the time," he says. "Is it still worth the effort? Is it still worth the effort?"
And the answer to that question may change as the body's level of fatigue increases. "The brain might have this kind of built-in mechanism to say, 'Hey, it's time to shift from this goal to another one,' " he says.
For an athlete, Braver says, that could mean abandoning the goal of winning a race and embracing a goal that will let them recover.
NPR Website: https://www.npr.org

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Climate Crisis Could Make Outside Sports More Dangerous

By Jen Christensen, CNN

"About this time every year, there are news reports about student athletes who collapse during practice while getting ready for a big game. Heat illness can lead to death and injury among athletes, and a new report examines why the risk could be rising.

The report from Climate Central, a nonprofit science and news organization, analyzed 239 locations in the United States. It found that 198 cities have experienced an increase in the annual number of days with a heat index temperature of reaching over 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32.2 degrees Celsius) or higher over the last four decades. 
The past four years have been the warmest in the United States since record keeping began in 1895.
The National Weather Service's heat index measures how hot it feels when you factor in relative humidity with the actual air temperature. It can feel even hotter if you are in the sun on these days. The heat index is calculated for shady locations with a slight breeze, the report said, which means it can actually feel 15 degrees Fahrenheit warmer.
The South and Southwest see these high heat index days throughout the summer. Parts of the country where it's rare to see such highs are seeing more such days too.

See the source image
Source: Los Alamitos Race on the Base

In a number of Southern cities, extreme heat days reach far beyond summer months. Miami had 160.6 days extreme heat days on average over the last five years, for example.

Nearly a dozen US cities saw an increase of at least four "danger" days on average since 1979. A "danger" day is when the combined heat and humidity makes it feel like it's 105 degrees Fahrenheit or hotter. McAllen saw an increase of 21.9 days since 1979, Houston had 9.6 more and Pensacola, Florida, had 5.9 days more, the report found.
Your body doesn't handle these extremely hot and humid days well, because sweat -- your natural cooling mechanism -- doesn't evaporate when it's really humid and you can't cool down as well. It can also be hard to breathe.
For both conditions, "danger" days and "heat index" days, it can be dangerous to exercise outside and can lead to heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
A number of sporting events around the world have had to cancel due to high temperatures, including the New York Triathlon in July. Last year, for the first time in the US Open's history, an extreme heat policy was implemented to help male tennis players cope with temperatures around 100 degrees Fahrenheit in New York.
Standards vary on when practices or games are canceled and not every school or professional team has the proper equipment to measure the true heat/humidity conditions on a practice field, according to the report.
Since 1995, 64 football players alone have died from heat stroke and 90% of them died during practice, an earlier study showed. The rate of football heat stroke deaths fell in recent years, a decline researchers said supported continued efforts to train coaches, players and others about practicing in heat and hydrating properly.
The new report's authors encourage coaches to follow the National Athletic Trainers' Association recommendations to limit players' risk of practicing in the heat, including keeping fluids on hand at all times, encouraging rest breaks and watching for signs of heat-related illness."

Note: It may be time for cross-country officials to begin taking wet bulb temperatures at meet sites when it is very hot and humid. If wet bulb conditions indicate it is unsafe officials should consider the possibility of postponing meets until conditions are safer much as they do when there is lightning at a race site.
Scholastic meets should also probably  consider for the first time, providing water on the course for athletes.
For more information on about preventing heat illness in athletes: https://nfhslearn.com/courses/34000/heat-illness-prevention

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Gloucester Catholic Junior Senior High School Cross-Country Video 2018

Gloucester Catholic Junior Senior High School Cross-Country Video 2018

Monday, July 22, 2019

New Running Book "Positive Splits" Available

"Positive Splits" a new running book consisting of positive running stories is now available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com.

  The new book features positive running and training articles, as well as interesting profiles on positive runners from the 1700's until today.
The running legends profiled include Olympians Browning Ross, Ted Corbitt, Oscar Moore, Larry James and Erin Donohue, as well as inspirational every day runners.
 "Positive Splits" also features positive long distance training advice from some of the USA's greatest running coaches, as well as humor and homespun wisdom that will reward any runner or sports fan.

Here is the Amazon link to "Positive Splits":