Strength training should be an important component of a serious runner’s workout. Building muscular strength, particularly in the legs, corrects muscle imbalances and helps create power. A regular strength-training program can also reduce the risk of injuries. You can weight-train during the off-season or year-around. If you are serious about running fast, however, it will probably be necessary to back off weight training during the competition season to prevent overtraining.
Develop a schedule that works for you. A break between workouts gives the body time to recover and may reduce the risk of overuse injuries and the chances of overtraining. Chris Carmichael, in “Outside Magazine,” recommends training in blocks. One example of a training block that allows you to build leg muscles for speed is to weight-train two days, rest one day and then do speed workouts for three days. This is just one example; the important thing is to work out a schedule that works for you, when you can make it to the gym and when you can run.
Integrate hill workouts into your running. Lifting weights is not the only way to build leg muscles. Hill workouts increase leg strength and power. “Running Times” recommends one or two hill workouts each week as part of a strengthening program.
Use big lifts, such as squats and deadlifts, that work multiple body parts, as the main component of the leg-building program. Complete the exercises at a weight that allows you to do six to 12 repetitions.
Follow up all workouts with a stretching routine. Increasing muscle mass will not improve performance if it comes at the expense of flexibility. It is important to stretch after each workout to maintain a full range of motion through the core, hips and knees.
Train your brain to use new muscle through short, fast repeats. Several times a week, run short, fast repeats. Ten repeats, about 20 seconds long, run at about 90 percent of your maximum speed, will train the brain and nervous system to recruit the leg muscles. Warm up thoroughly before you begin this workout and recover fully between each sprint. This is a mind-body workout, not a cardiovascular one.
Chyawanprash (CHY) is an herbal supplement that has been used for thousands of years in Ayurvedic medicine, a holistic Indian system of natural healing. Commonly sold under the brand Dabur, CHY consists of over 40 different herbs and is prepared in a jam-like mixture made from gooseberries. While its producers claim a wide range of benefits, including improved immunity and memory, these claims are largely unsupported by evidence.
A study published in the March 2015 issue of “Indian Journal of Experimental Biology” found that CHY may help stimulate the body’s immune response. This study examined the impact of CHY on immune cells in a laboratory, and the cells exposed to CHY showed increased levels of proteins called cytokines, which help mount the body’s response to infection. In addition, CHY was shown to increase the elimination of infection-causing foreign bodies by cells called macrophages. This study suggests immune benefits; however, quality research is necessary to understand whether CHY can provide similar benefits in humans.
A study published in the 2011 issue of “Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” suggests that taking CHY may help prevent memory loss. In this animal study, mice who ingested CHY followed by an amnesia-causing medication were able to complete familiar tasks more quickly than mice who received the medication alone. However, mice who consumed CHY without the medication did not show any improvement in memory. The authors proposed that these benefits are related to CHY’s known antioxidant properties — antioxidants are substances that slow down or halt certain processes that lead to damage in the body. While this study may be promising, no research has been published corroborating these findings in humans.
A small study published in the March 2003 issue of “International Journal of Human Genetics” found that individuals who regularly smoked bidi, a high-nicotine cigarette common in India and Southeast Asia, had decreased coughing and improved appetite after being given CHY. The study also found fewer chromosomal abnormalities in certain types of white blood cells among smokers who also ingested CHY, indicating that the supplement may protect against genetic damage. CHY is a known source of vitamin C, an antioxidant. A study published in the February 2001 issue of “Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology” attempted to determine whether CHY provided benefits in addition to those related to its vitamin C content. Researchers compared 5 men who received CHY and 5 men who received vitamin C, and by the end of an 8-week period, CHY supplementation was linked to a greater decrease in blood glucose and larger improvement in cholesterol levels when compared to individuals taking vitamin C. While these study results are intriguing, larger studies and higher-quality research are needed before these benefits can be confirmed.
Although CHY has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for thousands of years and has many touted health benefits, little evidence exists to support these health claims. The limited regulation of dietary supplements also poses challenges, as the formulations of CHY may differ according to the brand. While the Dabur brand prepares CHY one way, other suppliers may add other ingredients such as gold or silver as a way to promote their product, according to a description of CHY’s formulation in the October 2013 issue of “Journal of Medicinal Plants Research.” This can pose safety concerns, and because it contains a mixture of many different herbs, CHY may have interactions with prescription medications or other supplements. A doctor should be consulted with questions or concerns prior to beginning any supplement regimen, so the benefits and risks can be addressed.
You may experience painful and disruptive foot cramps while exercising or sleeping. Mineral or electrolyte deficiencies, poor circulation, obesity and alcohol consumption may also cause a foot cramp; as well as dehydration, improper footwear and muscle fatigue. Injuries such as plantar fasciitis, a muscle strain or pinched nerve also can lead to foot cramps. Although treatment may vary depending on the cause, stretching while suffering from a foot cramp can help alleviate pain and may prevent future cramps.
The foot bend and foot pointer stretches lengthen or stretch the soft tissue on the bottom of the foot and the top of the foot, respectively. For the foot bend, start in a seated position with your legs crossed, affected leg on top. With your hand, gently pull back on your toes. If you cannot reach your foot, use a towel or resistance band. In the same start position, perform the foot pointer, but instead push your foot forward or down. Hold stretches for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat three times daily.
The transverse arch is along the ball of the foot, and stretching the muscles that support the arch may alleviate cramping. In a seated position with your legs crossed and affected foot on top, grasp your foot on either side, placing your fingers over the ball of your foot. With both hands, push down or forward on your foot to expose the knuckles of your toes, pull back and repeat. Repeat five to 10 times several times daily.
Calf stretches can prevent tight calf muscles, which can pull on the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia and lead to foot cramps. Standing with a staggered stance or lunge stance, lean forward, keeping your back heel on the floor; you should feel a stretch in the calf of the back leg. You also may stretch your calf in a seated position with your legs straight, and pulling your feet toward you using a towel or resistance band. Hold stretches for 15 to 30 seconds and repeat three times daily.
When you are having a severe foot cramp, static stretches may be too uncomfortable. Active stretches such as ankle circles and toe curls may be more comfortable than holding a position. Stretching may help alleviate the foot cramp, but unless muscle tightness is the cause, they will not prevent future foot cramps. You can include ice, heat, massage and strengthening exercises in foot cramp treatments, depending on the cause or injury. Consult your physician if you suffer from chronic or worsening foot cramps.
In football, kickers don¡¯t get much credit. Yet they often make the difference between winning and losing, with a clutch field-goal kicker worth his weight in gold. Reliable punters can also flip field position to either save a struggling offense or further enhance a dominating defense. These workouts will help kickers maximize their potential and earn a place of honor on any team.
Punters need to learn how to drop the ball straight during their approach to produce consistent, accurate punts. A simple workout to improve the skill begins with the punter standing along one of the yard lines. The punter then steps off his normal approach, stepping with his punting leg along the line, and drops the ball. Except in this drill, the punter allows the ball to drop to the ground. A proper drop, with the front nose of the ball slightly down and in, will result in the ball hitting the ground and bouncing backward slightly to the side of the line.
Position a tee along the back line of the end zone about 7 yards from the goalpost. To practice accuracy, the kicker strikes the ball in an attempt to hit the goalpost. To work on achieving height, the kicker attempts to drive the ball over the upright and downfield. Placing the ball 7 yards from the goalpost simulates kicking from behind the line, while any ball that hits the goalpost would achieve enough height to clear the line.
Place kickers require lethal accuracy to succeed. The horseshoe drill will help build a kicker¡¯s confidence when he¡¯s staring down the goalposts, regardless of where the ball is positioned. To begin, place 10 footballs in a horseshoe shape starting at the left side of the 10-yard line, extending out to and across the 30-yard line, and then ending back at the right side of the 10-yard line. Kickers get one shot from each distance, learning to line up kicks from various angles.
Punting along one of the yard lines helps develop proper ball placement, approach, leg swing and followthrough. The straight line serves as a guide, providing the punter with a simple reminder to keep his body and the ball in correct alignment. The punter begins with his kicking leg positioned on the line. He catches the snap and positions the ball in direct line with the kicking leg. Throughout his approach, the punter always steps on the line with his kicking leg. Practicing the drill also improves accuracy, with punts meant to travel along the line.
Pop Warner Football is a youth sports organization, founded in 1929 and named after legendary football coach Glenn ¡°Pop¡± Warner. More than 200,000 boys and girls, ages 5 through 16, participate in Pop Warner football each year. Most standard American football rules apply in Pop Warner leagues, but the organization makes a few adjustments.
Pop Warner¡¯s nine tackle football divisions have age and weight restrictions. The youngest, Tiny-Mite, is for players 5 to 7 years old who must weight between 35 and 75 pounds at the start of the season. The players can’t exceed 84 pounds during the season. In the oldest division, Bantam, 13- to 15-year-olds must weigh between 135 and 185 pounds to start the season and can never go over 194. Additionally, 16-year-olds may play Bantam if they weigh 135 to 165 pounds to start the year and no more than 174 by the end. The Unlimited division is the only category with no maximum weight limit.
Every member of a team has to play a minimum number of plays from scrimmage, and special teams plays don’t count. In the seven divisions for the oldest players, Junior Peewee through Bantam, members of teams with 31 to 35 players must participate in at least six plays. The minimum rises to eight plays for teams with 26 to 30 players and 10 for rosters totaling 16 to 25 players. In the Mitey Mite division, the minimums are eight, 10 and 12 plays, respectively for the three roster sizes. All Tiny Mites must be on the field for a minimum of 15 plays.
Most Pop Warner games are played on standard 100-yard fields, but the four youngest divisions may use 80-yard fields. The equipment is also fairly standard. Every player must wear a helmet certified by the National Operating Committee on Standards for Athletic Equipment. Players must wear shoulder, hip, tailbone, thigh and knee pads, as well as mouth guards that attach to their face masks. Boys must wear either an athletic supporter or compression shorts. Shoes may have rubber cleats no more than 1/2-inch long. Metal cleats are not permitted.
Most Pop Warner rules for tackling and other game play follow the youth football regulations in the state. States typically follow rules set by the National Federation of State High School Associations. Pop Warner leagues don¡¯t allow butt or chop blocking, or using a helmet to make a tackle. Tiny-Mites play by different, simpler rules. For example, the games have no punts, kickoffs or extra point attempts. Offensive and defensive formations are limited and scores aren¡¯t kept.
The top three age divisions play 12-minute quarters. The younger divisions play 10 minute quarters except for the Tiny Mites, who play 22-minute halves. A running clock starts if a team takes a 28-point lead and doesn¡¯t stop except for an injury or at the referee¡¯s discretion. Additionally, teams with 28-point margins can’t throw passes and can only run between the tackles. The offensive restrictions stop if the lead dips below 28 points, but the running clock continues.
Frequently noted benefits of kids’ involvement in sports and physical education include improved fitness and lower risk of obesity. Although not mentioned as often, research increasingly points to academic benefits for kids who have some regular physical activity. Additionally, it’s important to note that this advantage is not limited to kids taking part in organized, competitive sports.
Howell Wechsler, director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health for the Centers for Disease Control, reviewed 50 studies that examined the effect of school-based physical activity on academic performance and discovered that half of the studies showed positive associations and virtually none of the research demonstrated any negative impact. Multiple studies demonstrated that even relatively short spans of physical activity helped increase the duration and intensity of concentration following such activities, including those in which the students never left the classroom.
A study by James Pivarnik and colleagues at the American College of Sports Medicine discovered that middle-school students who performed best on fitness tests — gauging aerobic capacity, strength, endurance and body composition — also performed better academically. The study, which included 317 students, showed that the fittest kids scored nearly 30 percent higher on standardized tests than the least-fit group. Moreover, the less-fit students received grades in their core subjects that were 13 percent to 20 percent lower than their fitter classmates.
Writing on the website Oregon Live.com, Wendy Owen observes that students who play on sports teams learn leadership skills, responsibility, discipline and time management skills that carry over into the classroom. She quotes high school football player Zack Hickman, who points out that his sport requires to him to use his head and demands that he’s always learning from his experiences on the field — feeding expectations and habits in school.
For some students, sports can provide motivation for improved academic performance. Tom Welter, executive director of the Oregon School Activities Association, concedes that not all athletes are natural students; however, the grade requirements to stay eligible and play the sport they love drives them to overcome obstacles in the classroom and improve performance, establishing a work ethic that can serve them well for as long as they remain in an academic setting.
The groin muscles are located on the inner thigh and act to pull the legs in toward each other and to flex the hip. A torn groin muscle most often occurs during an activity which requires sudden changes in direction and speed, such as soccer or football. Treatment of a torn groin muscle is determined by the severity of the injury.
According to the website Physio Advisor, implementing the R.I.C.E. routine during the first 72 hours following a groin tear will result in a speedier recovery. R.I.C.E. stands for rest, ice, compression and elevation. The athlete should rest from the aggravating activity and perform only activities that are pain-free. Applying ice to the injured groin for 20 minutes, three to five times per day, will help control swelling and pain. The athlete should apply an elastic bandage to the groin and elevate his legs as often as possible. If the groin tear is severe, the athlete may need to use crutches to assist with walking.
Early rehabilitation is important for the successful recovery from a groin muscle tear. Physical therapists will use modalities to help control the initial inflammation, such as electric stimulation and ultrasound. A routine of gentle stretching and massage will ensure that the torn tissue heals with a minimal amount of scar tissue. Strengthening exercises and sport specific training will be initiated by the physical therapist as soon as the athlete is pain free. Most groin injuries will heal in six to eight weeks and the athlete can return to sports once she has full strength and range of motion.
According to American Family Physician, chronic groin tears that do not respond to conservative treatment after several months may require surgery to repair. Surgery may also be indicated if the groin tear is complete or if it involves an avulsion fracture, in which a small piece of bone is dislodged at the muscle attachment. Following surgery, a lengthy period of rehabilitation to restore full range of motion and strength will be initiated. Return to sports is determined on a case by case basis, once the athlete can complete a battery of sport-specific tests.
Being a quality pitcher is a lot much more than simply catching a pitched ball and returning it to the pitcher. You must also be strong enough and prepared for the physical demands of the sport. During the course of a game catchers squat and stand over 100 times, throw out base runners who try to steal second base, block wild pitches and block the plate from a base runner trying to score. A workout program designed to improve your strength and agility can help you play your position effectively.
Squats are an exercise that builds leg power, which catchers need during a game, and to endure a full season behind the plate. Squats can be performed while holding a barbell across your upper back, with dumbbells at your sides or with just your own body weight. To perform a squat, stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and bend your legs until your thighs are about parallel to the floor. Do a lower number of repetitions with heavier weight to build power and size, and higher reps with lower weight or your body weight for strength and endurance.
Side lunges will help strengthen the muscles a catcher needs for lateral movement. Pitches to either side in the dirt must be blocked, and quick lateral movement is the key to getting in front of a wild pitch. Stand with your hands on your hips, or a dumbbell in each hand, then step out to either side into a lunge. At this point, you can step back to the start with your lunging leg or step up with your straight leg and continue in that direction. Perform an equal number of reps on each side.
Footwork is an important aspect of being a catcher. Blocking pitches and pivoting to throw out base runners requires you to be quick on your feet. Incorporating rope jumping into your workout routine will help increase foot speed and coordination. Practice jumping with both feet on the ground at once and with different combinations of one foot.
Lower-body plyometrics refers to jump training, and it is an effective way to build explosive leg power. You can perform lower-body plyometrics by simply crouching down and jumping as high as you can over and over, or you can create specific exercises. Jumping up onto a bench and down is one effective move, as is performing a half-body turn each time you jump.
Upper-body plyometrics will strengthen your arms and shoulders, which helps keep your arm strong for all the throwing a catcher has to do. Using a medicine ball, perform explosive throwing movements with both hands, using your arms and legs to generate power. Throw the medicine ball overhead against a wall, to the side against a wall, up and over your head and slam it down into the ground. You can also perform plyometric push-ups by exploding up off the floor in the middle of each repetition.
Cleats have long given versatility and protection from muscle injuries to football players of all stripes. Their main function is to give a player’s footwear better grip on turf, especially in wet or muddy conditions. Advances in the development of the cleat have tracked the game of American football from its inception in the 1860s.
Cleats date back to the 16th century, when England¡¯s Henry the VIII ordered what may have been the first pair of specialized cleats for his “The Great Wardrobe.” Cleats first appeared on the opposite side of the Atlantic as footwear for soccer players in the early 19th century. American football followed with early models that had leather, metal or even wooden studs. That in turn led to multiple injuries.
As football evolved, some innovators saw the need for new and better cleats. In 1925, German brothers Rudolf and Adi Dassler, who would go to start Puma and Adidas, developed cleats with removable studs. Players were able to drill in their athletic shoes, then take off the studs and walk home. Rubber cleats, once considered too heavy for the game, came along in the 1920s as well thanks to the emergence of vulcanized rubber.
While coaching at Oregon Agriculture College, which became Oregon State, football innovator Joseph Pipal developed what came to be known as ¡°mud cleats.¡± These longer, sharper cleats were designed to improve performance in muddy conditions. They stand alongside the lateral pass as Pipal’s contributions to the game of football.
As cleats continued to evolve, most companies took a lighter is better approach. Adidas’ 2011 offering, the 6.9 ounce “5 star” was at the time the lightest football cleat ever invented. Nike topped it two years later with the 5.6 oz Vapor Laser Talon. The VLT was also the first football cleat produced using 3D printing technology.
Shooting long range in soccer is difficult, but regular practice can improve your skills. If you’re having trouble achieving proper form while shooting, consult your coach or watch professional soccer players during a match. Note the movements they make to achieve distance shots. Don’t worry if it takes a long time to get better. Just focus on completing your shots correctly and maintaining accuracy, and over time your ability to shoot at a distance will improve.
Perfect your form so that your shots are consistent and powerful. Plant your nonshooting foot a little more than 1 foot away from the ball and keep that leg slightly bent. Lift your shooting foot high behind you, then whip it forward while pointing your toes downward. The laces of your shoe should connect below the midline of the ball. Follow through with your leg. If the ball doesn’t go far or if your shot is inconsistent, practice kicking with correct form against a wall. This allows you to take shots repeatedly without having to chase after the ball each time.
Start off by shooting the ball from a location at which it is easy for you to hit the target consistently and accurately. Typically, this will be in the center of the field a few dozen feet away from the net. Shoot repeatedly from that location, each time aiming at a specific area of the net. For example, shoot several balls toward the top left corner, then top right, then bottom left and then bottom right. Once you can perform these shots accurately, move away from the net to a distance that makes it more difficult for you. Stay at that distance until you improve and then move farther away.
Once you have a decent range, it’s time to improve how you shoot on an angle. When you are directly facing the center of the net, you have maximum flexibility in choosing your shot location. But if you’re standing off to either side, the amount of open area that¡¯s available for targeting decreases, making it harder to score goals. Practice taking shots from a distance and at severe angles to the goal. For example, set up shots that are far away from the net and off to the side. If possible ask a friend to play goalkeeper to make your targeting opportunities more realistic. Visualize the open area of the goal and aim toward it. Move farther away as you improve.
Kicking the ball far is not easy, so you might be tempted to use the tip of your foot to add some distance to your shot. While kicking with the point of your cleats does make the ball go farther, it is impossible to maintain a consistent, accurate shot when you shoot this way. The best way to shoot long-range is to use proper form — the instep kick — to launch the ball toward the target. It might not be easy at first, but over time you will develop accuracy as well as distance.