Wednesday, April 24, 2013

What is Health in Sport and Where Do You Draw the Line?

In the preface of the book Sporting Bodies, Damaged Selves: Sociological Studies of Sports-Related Injury, Editor Kevin Young defines what he argues is one of the most common misconceptions about sport:

"One of the most common assumptions made about sport is that being an athlete is beneficial for both body and mind, and that sport is practiced by healthy bodies experiencing healthy outcomes. While the world of sport is populated by persons on and off the field who wish that this were true, anyone who has played, coached, administered or simply watched from the sidelines will attest that this view is, at least in part, a misconception, often forwarded by those unwilling to acknowledge what Messner and Sabo have called the 'very limiting, often painful downside of sport' (1990:14). The potentially healthful benefits of sport and exercise have been well-documented (Berger & Owen 1998: Biddle & Fox 1989; Curtis & Russel 1997; Sargeant & Siddons 1998), but the less healthy  injurious consequences of sport have been far less widely researched, certainly by sociologists. In many sports and at many levels, sport is also about learning to live with pain and hurt and, for  a disconcertingly large number of athletes, injury and even disablement that can last well beyond the playing years. Of the sundry badly kept secrets from the world of sport, this is surely among the worst. Everyone knows that it is almost impossible to play sport without experiencing pain; every athlete has a story to tell about injury" (Young, xi).

I think the world of sport has changed dramatically, even since Young wrote this preface in 2004. In the very least, national bodies such as NFL, the NHL, USAC, and USAT are more aware of the negative long term benefits of concussions. But the quote is still thought provoking in many ways. I think reflecting on how you define health will bring about an awareness of what you are willing to go through in order to achieve a particular performance goal. This reflection will help you make decisions about how to react in those moments of pain and injury--those moments when the pain or injury directs our attention away from the ramifications of our actions. So, how do you define health? Is health a specific body image? Is health a lack of disease and injury? Or do you have a more holistic view of health that involves body, mind, and spirit? Is health something you attain or maintain? How do you attain or maintain health (does it involve physical activity, nutrition  sleep, social activity)? In what ways do you think your sport is healthy and in what ways do you think it is unhealthy? How do you evaluate whether you are healthy or unhealthy. For instance, do you account for pain or just physical injury in this definition or what is unhealthy? How does time and frequency influence your definitions of being unhealthy? Given your definition of health, how far are you willing to become unhealthy in order to achieve your goals? 

Culturally speaking, we might ask how our own definition of health is different from the definition of health in sports magazines and other media. Are the body images of the models you see in your favorite sports magazine a true representation of a healthy body? Does the information these media provide about workouts and training actually lead to a healthy body (...or just a "healthy" body image)? 

Scientifically speaking, we might ask why there is less information about sports injury than about the positive health benefits of sport?  How does our economic system play into the promotion of scientific studies on the health benefits of sport but not the health limitations of sport? What does this say about the values of those who fund scientific studies? 

Feel free to comment on the blog or my facebook page. As always feel free to e-mail me at if you want to discuss how knowing the answers to these types of questions can help direct the way you train and race.  


Image from:

Friday, April 19, 2013

Feeling Pressure today? Watch this video...

We all deal with pressure. Get some advice from pro triathletes including Potts, Alexander, and Mecca. Watch this video  from Ali'i Drive:

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Movement is a Choice...and Video of Olympian Jono Van Hazel's Stroke because it's Awesome!

We don't often think of the way we move as a choice. Although we know we can change our form, we often idealize the form of our favorite professional athletes and believe that the way they move is the way we should move. We then go out and try to fit ourselves into that form (even though we do not have the same body, or muscle balance that they least not yet). While watching elite athletes move, I think it's easy to miss that they move with a purpose in mind. In training and racing, elite athletes explore new ways of moving with every stride or stroke and determine the way of moving that works best for them to achieve their goals in that particular moment.  I think a major difference between elite athletes and armatures is that the elites embody a more fluid process of moving while armatures take on a more ridged one. Elite athletes tailor the way they move moment by moment while armatures tend to focus on the static form of their idealized elite. Focusing on this static conception of form allows athletes to forget their own bodies in the process. They do not see that the way they were moving a minute ago may not be the most productive way to move now. A predetermined idea of form takes away an athlete's ability to engage in the process of choosing the best way to move at any given moment.

The way you move can be a choice, but you only get the freedom to choose if you know how you move in the first place. Whether you want to get faster, more efficient, or healthier, reflect on how you move in relation to your goal.  I am advocating here for self awareness. What is your goal? How are you choosing to move in a way that helps you achieve that goal? One way to become more self aware is to get a friend to film you while you exercise. Look at the film yourself and observe how you move. Remember that the way you move is neither good nor bad, it is just your default setting at that moment and you always have the freedom to change it. Consider what it looks like and how it feels to move in the way that you do. Then, consider the affordances and constraints of the way you move. How are you moving in a way that's slowing you down, using up energy, or causing you injury? In what ways are you moving that help you through the water, up a hill on your bike, or down a single-track trail on your run?  After you observe how you move and consider the implications, you will have a good idea of how you might focus your form towards your goal.  Then...take a jump and consciously make a change.  Who knows, maybe you might just achieve something amazing!  

I'm not arguing that we should't watch other people move. In fact, I think it helps to observe how others move and reflect on why their way of moving works for them.  Instead of evaluating them in terms of what they are doing "right" or "wrong," simply observe what they are doing and consider why the way move they works for them. Instead of trying to fit yourself into their form, compare and contrast the differences between forms.  This might give you some incite on why the way you move is working (or not working) for you. Check out Olympian Jono Van Hazel's stroke here: What can you learn from watching this video? What does his stroke look like? How do you think it feels to move like that? Why do you think he chooses to move in that way? Now... What does your stroke look like? How does it feel? Why do you choose to move in that way? 

Have a great week!


Monday, April 8, 2013


PowerOn Coached Andy had a personal record at the DC Cherry Blossom 10 miler. Nice job, Andy!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Treadmill Workout that Lead Towards Personal Records for Three Power On Coached Athletes

This was another great weekend for Power On Coached athletes! Many of our triathletes have been racing half marathons to prepare for the upcoming Tri season and three of these athletes, Bill, Patti, and Aliza achieved personal records in their respective events. Although all three of these athletes had phenomenal performances, the outstanding athlete award goes to Aliza this week. Three weeks ago, she ran at 8 minute mile pace for a 5 mile race. After that race, Aliza and I collaborated and changed around her training schedule. This weekend she had a break through half marathon and ran 7:15 pace for all 13.1 miles. This was enough to win her age group! Great job Aliza and good work to all the Power On Coached athletes who raced this weekend!

One strength run that seems to be benefiting my athletes is a treadmill workout. I have the athletes warm up for 15 minutes and go on to do 4 repeats of 5 minutes at race pace and at an incline of 3%. The athletes take 3 minutes of active recovery—jogging or walking—between each interval. The athletes finish the workout with a 15 minute cool down jog. The aim of this workout is to run at an even race pace while working to decrease perceived effort. There are an infinite number of ways to decrease perceived effort. One is to relax the upper body. A second is to modify form. A third is to modify foot cadence. A fourth is to let go of the mind and let the body do the work. 

Try it! If you choose to do this workout, remember that the aim is to make the workout easier as you go along! I hope the workout helps to increase your performance as much as it has for the Power On Coached athletes.

As always, if you are interested in a triathlon or cycling coach, Power On has got you covered. We do it all, from road racing to triathlons, and mountain biking to Xterra. Give us a call!

Jon Fecik

Image taken from Women'sHealth :