Archive for “Competitions” Tag

Beat the Heat To Keep Fit


exercising in the heat for young athletes tips

Exercising In The Heat Can Be Beneficial


By Phil Hueston


Ok. So it’s hot. Really hot. But you still want to get your exercise in. Is it safe? You’re asking “How do I know when to go out and play in the summer sun (and heat)? How do I know when I should stay inside and exercise in the AC? Or should I bag it all and just hit the pool?”


There are risks and benefits to exercising in the heat. More risks than benefits, I’m afraid, but we’ll talk about both.


First, the benefits.


Benefit #1 – No snow. Ok, just kidding. The first benefit of exercising is in heat that you will definitely break a sweat. This is really only a benefit if you intend to sweat, of course! Sweating is good for the body in several ways. 1.) It is a very efficient way to remove toxins from the body. Sweating helps clean the toxins out of your body, helping to somewhat lighten the load on the kidneys, liver and other “clean-up” organs. 2.) Sweating is said to be moderately beneficial to cardiovascular health. When we begin to sweat, our heart and lungs work a bit harder to take in and distribute the oxygen needed to cool blood and keep organs and other body components cool. This contributes to improved cardiovascular strength and efficiency. 3.) Sweating can make you more beautiful (or handsome.) Sort of. See #1 – sweating clears toxins. The pores of the skin are often clogged with toxins, so when you sweat, you clear them out and let them “breathe.”


Benefit #2 – Improved stress levels and management. Exercise helps manage stress under just about any circumstances (except, of course, gladiator competitions and being chased by a tiger – very stressful.) Benefit #1 may contribute to the increased stress management when exercising in the heat. Sweating more is said to trigger endorphin release sooner during and after exercise. No conclusive proof of higher endorphins in the heat yet, but there IS something to be said for how great you feel after a good sweat and challenging exercising in the heat.


Benefit #3 – Muscles tend to warm up faster. It just makes sense – higher temperatures lead to more blood flow faster. Since that’s a large component of how muscles warm up, heat helps.


Benefit #4 – Enhanced fat loss. While the majority of weight lost through sweating is water weight, heat helps in fat loss, too. Higher temperatures help heat the body. This makes fat more “fluid,” for lack of a better term. Essentially, it becomes more easily transported in the blood, making it available for use as a fuel.


Benefit #5 – This benefit is a bit more specific in nature. Apparently, training in high temperatures can improve athletic performance at lower temperatures. According to a University of Oregon study, the results of which were published in the October 2010 issue of The Journal of Applied Physiology¸


“Heat acclimation improves the body’s ability to control body temperature, improves sweating and increases blood flow through the skin, and expands blood volume allowing the heart to pump to more blood to muscles, organs and the skin as needed.” – Science Daily, October 25, 2010.


The study was conducted on cyclists and found that their performance improved by 7 percent after only 10 heat acclimation exposures. Doesn’t sound like much until you think about what a 7% reduction would mean for Lance Armstrong’s fastest Tour de France time. In 2002, Armstrong finished in 82 hours, 5 minutes. A 7% improvement in that time would make it 76 hours, 21 minutes. 7% indeed.


So heat offers some unique benefits relative to exercise and the results you can expect. However, there are risks. So before you go hopping on the bike or grabbing your barbells, let’s make sure you know what they are.


Risk #1 – Increased Cardiovascular load. In the heat, your body tissues increase in temperature, often beyond the normal range for average temperature exercise. In response, blood is sent to the skin to cool the body. Add to this the fact that sweat doesn’t readily evaporate (how we cool off) and the job is tougher. This leaves less blood available to travel to muscles. That makes the heart work harder, stressing it.


Risk #2 – Heat Cramps. Less blood to muscles means higher risk of cramping. Heat cramps are painful muscle contractions, most often occurring in the calves, quadriceps and abdominal muscles. While the skin and body temperature may feel normal, the muscles themselves may be firm to the touch or even somewhat swollen.


Risk #3 – Heat Exhaustion. In this dangerous situation, your body temperature may rise to 104 degrees. It may be accompanied by nausea, headache, vomiting, dizziness, weakness, fainting, and cold, clammy skin. If no action is taken to alleviate it, heat exhaustion can lead to heatstroke.


Risk #4 – Heatstroke. Your body temperature reaches more than 104 degrees. This is a life-threatening situation and must be addressed immediately. Without immediate attention you risk organ failure, brain damage or even death. While the skin may be hot, your body may stop sweating, preventing cooling from happening. Confusion and irritability may ensue. Seek medical help NOW!


Beware the warning signs. Know the warning signs of heat-related illness or conditions. Muscle cramps, nausea or vomiting, weakness, headache, dizziness and confusion are all signs that it is time to stop, cool down and re-assess the exercise session based on the risks.


How to get the benefits without needless risks. You can enjoy the benefits of hot temperature exercise while minimizing the risks.


Remember these guidelines for exercising in the heat:


1. Know the temperature – Be aware of weather forecasts and temperature expectations. Generally, temps or heat indices over 100 are signs that you should take extra caution when exercising. Reduce the intensity of your session or use a shorter duration during these situations.


2. Get adjusted and acclimated – Increase the intensity of your exercise over time, say 1 to 3 weeks. If you’ve been working out indoors or in climate controlled areas, start with a few short (20-30 minute) session in the higher temperatures and work up from there.


3. Know your limits – High heat is not the time to “jump back in” at full effort if you’ve been slacking off or exercising at low to moderate intensity. Also, stick with what you know while adjusting to the heat. Familiar exercise types allow you to recognize your limits – which will be tested in warm temperatures faster than in moderate ones.


4. Hit the fluids – HARD – Drink more fluids than you think you need. Don’t wait until you are thirsty. By then it’s too late – dehydration is beginning. For sessions longer than an hour, sports drinks may be a better choice because of the sodium, chloride and potassium they can replace. Choose drinks with lower sugar contents. Avoid alcoholic beverages during hot weather activity.


5. Avoid the mid-day sun – Morning or evening are best. Even better – a brisk swim.


6. Dress right – You may think your solar sweatshirt and the hot weather are a great way to drop a few pounds, but it’s really a recipe for heat related illness, even heart attacks and strokes. Light, loose fitting clothes in light colors are best. Think about a hat – especially those of you (me too) who are bald, shave our heads or have thinning hair.


7. Have an alternate plan – Go climb or run some stairs in an air-conditioned building. Exercise indoors in the air-conditioning. It’s okay, the weather will cool off and you’ll be outside again soon.


8. Know your risks – Be aware of any medical conditions that might be made worse through heat exposure. If you aren’t sure, speak with your doctor before beginning an exercise program in hot weather.


9. Sunscreen, baby – Because sunburned skin doesn’t cool off as well as healthy skin.


So the temperature has climbed into the high whatevers. Don’t let that stop you from “getting after it.” Just get smart about it and you’ll be able to benefit from exercising in the heat and your hot weather workouts while avoiding the potential dangers.



Evaluating Yourself As A Coach


Become The Best Coach You Can Be

youth coach evaluation

By Wil Fleming


There are a lot of great coaches in the world, and this newsletter reaches plenty of them. To become an even better coach evaluation is really important.

I think that coaching breaks down into four categories and seeing where you are an expert or could need some work is a helpful tool to become a better a coach.


  1. Anatomy and Kinesiology 

    This category is first as it is likely the first thing we learned in school that actually pertained to our development as coaches. For coaches that changed careers or don’t have a classic background in this area, this is typically the weakest. Coaches that are strong in this area, can do wonders in assessment, analyzing movements, and innovating new ideas.


    This is by far my weakest area and something that I strive to get better in everyday. Brushing up on anatomy, kinesiology, and biomechanics through reading is my primary way to get better in this area.


  2. Program design 

    Designing great programs can really make your athletes better. Putting the wrong exercises in the program can make your athletes unprepared for their competitions, or even get them injured. Incorrect rep schemes and volume can leave your athletes under or over trained. The right program can give each athlete a chance at giving their best effort when it counts.


    I think that I am fairly strong in this area, but could definitely use improvement. The easiest way to improve in this area is to observe and interact with coaches that are preparing athletes on a daily basis and glean what you can from their programming secrets.


  3. Practical Coaching 

    Practical coaching is what I have named the actual coaching on the floor. Seeing movements and cleaning them up to get the best patterns possible. Being a problem solver on the floor coaching the technique at every step.


    In my perspective, this is where I am strongest. I am able to identify issues in movements and make the modifications on the floor or to the technique that are necessary. Again watching good coaches in action is a great way to improve in this area, as is completing the movements yourself. Working through your own technical problems is a great way to get a feel for what you need to coach.


  4. Impact 

    Impact is all of the non-programming stuff. Are you making the environment fun? Are you setting the athletes up for life-long success by associating positive emotions with training?


    Also one of my strong suits, but probably the area in which I worry about the most. I want to make sure that the athletes love the experience and are excited to train. To improve in this area there are no secrets, it is always making sure that your energy is higher than the athletes’ energy and focusing on bringing them up with you through their training session.


Don’t be afraid to evaluate, and don’t be afraid to focus in on your weak points. You as a coach and your athletes will get better because of it.


Change Lives,





Selecting the Right Starting Position for Olympic Lifts (Part 1)


Athletes Options For Olympic Lifts


By Wil Fleming


Coaches everywhere, and a great percentage of coaches at that, choose to use some type of Olympic lift in their training of athletes. Typically this Olympic lift is a power clean, starting from the floor. While this is appropriate for plenty of athletes, there are multiple variations in the starting position, that it can be hard to determine which is the right place to start.


So lets take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of some of the variations in start position.


Floor Start Position


This is the typical start position and the one used in weightlifting competitions. This position is the one that as coaches we see high school athletes using most often in their high school training program.


In this position the athlete starts with the bar at rest on the floor, and the bar should be close (~1-2 inches) from the shins. Athletes starting in this position should slowly, and under control lift the from the floor, ultimately passing the knees.


Pros: This position is the position from which the most weight has ever been cleaned or snatched, has been lifted. This is due to the momentum gained from the correct pull off the floor. Using the floor start position requires the athlete to increase hip range of motion due to the low starting position.


Cons: This position requires great hip mobility, and therefore, if an athlete is lacking in hip mobility they will typically gain this lower start position through an increase in lumbar flexion. Lumbar flexion with loads in front of the spine have been attributed to greater shear forces on the spine and a corresponding higher incidence of back injury. The typical floor start position also requires athletes to move the bar by the knees. This area of movement is one that requires great technique and for many athletes means that their technical problems occur in this area. More lifts are missed due to the first pull moving around the knee than in any other area of the lift. Poor lifts will have an S pull where the bar will move forward to travel pass the knee.


Block Start Position


The block start position is used often in the technical training of competition weightlifters.


The actual start position can be adjusted in height to meet the goals of the training session, but typically the athlete will start from a static stance somewhere above the knee.


Pros: Block starts are a great teaching tool. Coaches can specify the exact starting position that the athlete must achieve. This position is usually close to the 2nd pull (the rapid acceleration of the bar), and requires very little thought from the athlete once the bar is in place. Cueing the pull from a block position is fairly easy for the coach, typically aggressiveness and explosiveness are the only thing needed. The block start position is great for starting strength, no momentum is used and the stretch shortening cycle is eliminated. Starting strength is great quality to develop for nearly any athlete.


Cons: Situating the athlete in the correct start position can be hard for the uninitiated coach, differing starting heights require differing positions that are sometimes very dissimilar. Blocks can also be expensive to purchase or difficult to assemble, and therefore many weight rooms or facilities do not allow for the possibility of coaching athletes from a block starting position.


There are even more possibilities for Olympic lift start positions stay tuned for Part 2 to learn about 2 of my favorite start positions for young athletes.



olymic lifts young athletes
Learn More the Olympic Lift Instructor Course Today!





Peaking for Young Athletes?

Peaking for Young Athletes. Should we do it?


At a seminar I presented this past weekend in Canada,
I opened my day-long presentation with an introduction
filled with passionate and thought provoking insight into
the Art of Coaching, the need to TEACH and the necessity
we have as an industry to steer the youth conditioning niche
a different direction such as Peaking for Young Athletes – specifically, to stop creating short-term
training programs within which biomotor improvement
(speed, strength, flexibility etc) is at the top of the priority
list and in lieu of developmentally sound sequences and
adequate instructional time.


Although largely well received, one attendee asked an
interesting question during this particular portion of the seminar:


‘I understand that you think we should teach more and train
less, but then how am I supposed to have my athletes peak
for the big competitions at the end of the year?’


Excellent question… and one of the largest concerns in our


Let’s go through this step-by-step:




We have all read textbooks from heralded scholars and
have learned to pontificate words such as ‘peak’ and ‘periodization’.
The problem is that we have become comfortable with their
theories and have forgotten that their application is next to impossible.


Peaking for Young Athletes for a competition is an in-depth and systematic
process that is too involved for this article. It requires a constant
and dynamic approach to programming and necessitates that the
trainer or coach looking for this ‘peak’ have an innate understanding
of all the physiological processes that go into such an engrossed practice.


More over, it requires the trainer or coach to have control
over these physiological considerations – and that is simply
not possible in today’s youth sports society.


For instance, proper ‘peaking’ is based on nutrition, sleep,
emotional/mental stress IN ADDITION to proper training


Not only can we not control these factors in young athletes,
most trainers and coaches who preach about such methodologies
don’t even consider the aforementioned extraneous factors
in there ‘peaking’ procedures.


The coach who posed this question (who for the record was
intelligent, energetic and clearly passionate) mentioned that in
an effort to ‘peak’, he would add and take away exercise stimulus
from his athletes’ training programs during the course of a season
in accordance with standard ‘peaking’ protocol.


Again, the problem is that multiple interactive concerns associated
with over stress (and therefore Cortisol secretion – which is
terribly catabolic and renders an organism virtually unable to get
any stronger or faster) and over training are issues that must be
factored into any training procedure that is focused on:

Peaking for Young Athletes Case Study. 

A young athlete wakes up at the crack of dawn and heads to school…


They sit in class all day and consume next to nothing in the way of food…


After school they have soccer practice for 75 minutes…


They come to your training session and workout for 60 minute –
because they are trying to ‘peak’ for the final track meet of the


They come home, and eat a nutritionally devoid dinner…


They spend 2 – 4 hours on homework…


Watch 1 – 2 hours of TV…


They are in bed by midnight, having to wake up at 6am the
next morning to start it all over again.


Just think about common sense for a second… is this the kind
of organism that can be physically manipulated to ‘peak’ at
the right time???


Concepts such as Peaking for Young Athletes and periodization were designed for
elite level athletes who enjoyed little to know extraneous stress
outside of their sports and were often pharmaceutically
enhanced (use your imagination!).


These theories were never intended to be used on children
and average everyday adolescent kids.


The sooner we realize that our role as trainers and coaches
should be focused on enhancing self-efficacy, decreasing injury
potential and providing just enough of the right kind of stimulus
to aid in the body’s natural developmental processes, the better
off we are going to be.


Put down the big words and high-end theories…


… Think common sense.