Monday, June 25, 2007

Arielle Newman - An Unnecessary Death

It’s a terrible thing that happened to Arielle Newman, the young track star who suddenly died back in April from absorbing lethal levels of methyl salicylate from using too much Ben Gay. When you hear something like this happening to someone, especially someone who is only 17 years of age, it stops you right in your tracks. But after hearing this terrible news, it made me think of why this young athlete died. One reporter on the news stated that Arielle was using this balm on a constant basis to alleviate sore muscles and sore joints. Sure, any hard-training athlete is going to experience muscle soreness, but a 17 year old having persistent joint pain? That sends up a red flag with me and that is what prompted this commentary.

Even if the fact of her persistent joint pain is over-stated, how did this daily “need” for muscular relief go unrecognized by her coach, parents or even herself? Maybe she just thought it would aid in recovery or this is what she had to do to help her in achieving her goals, who knows, but what we do know is that soreness – muscular or joint - on a steady basis is not a healthy nor desirable scenario for any athlete at any age and these issues extend beyond topical ointments.

A lot of today’s young athletes are self-driven, others seem to have competition thrust upon them by their parents who were athletes themselves or who want to make up for their failed athletic youth by living vicariously through their children. And some kids unfortunately are “miss coached” by some well-meaning authorities who lack constructive knowledge or experience and impose unruly demands on their athletes by applying unsafe training methods. Whoever is to blame is not the gist of the matter at this time, it is the fact that there needs to be an awareness brought to everyone that there is potential for dangerous outcomes to young athletes who are subjected to this “pedal-to-the-metal” philosophy to improve performance.

What parent doesn’t want to see their kid be the best that they can, but as a parent your first and foremost responsibility is to protect your child. As a coach, you have the responsibility of nurturing these young adults for the four years, but what happens to them under your supervision can affect them for a lifetime. And as an athlete, you have to know what you want and go after it, striving to be the best is fine, that is what builds champions on and off the athletic field, but recognize that success can come with a price that just isn’t worth paying some time.

- Fred Fornicola

Friday, June 15, 2007

Repetition Ranges

There is a terrible misconception that repetition ranges somehow have a special affect on your body. Some believe that you need 8-12 reps for hypertrophy (muscle growth) and 5-6 reps are just for building strength while anything over 15 reps only builds endurance. Well, I think that is totally ridiculous. If you can perform 50 reps with 200 pounds in the leg press and after some time you now can do 50 reps with 210 pounds then you have gotten stronger, built more endurance and could possibly have increased your muscular size - period.

Varying repetition ranges (that is if you want to mix it up and your body can handle the varying loads placed on it) can keep the body "off guard" and help prevent becoming stale, bored or plateaued. By using a varied range, you may find certain repetition ranges to be more suitable for different body parts or a particular movement and you can then set new goals for personal records.

Personally, I feel a higher than normal repetition range is safer for most individuals - beginners or the most advanced because it allows for lighter loads to be used so there are less compressive forces. But don't think lighter means easier - no, far from it. If these sets are worked hard (which they should be) then these high rep sets can be very challenging, enabling the trainee to build good strength and stamina with less joint stress. - Fred Fornicola

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Something Overlooked?

For those of you who are (uhmm, slightly older) and may have some type of prevailing injury (which is not exclusive to us old timers) - I believe that some alterations may be in order. Allow me to explain....The die hard high intensity trainee can at times be confused or made to feel "guilty" if they do submaximum effort workouts or multiple sets or perform an exercise that is categorized as - "uncontrolled". I have found through my adventures that higher repetition work is hard and beneficial along with select exercises - allowing me to train consistantly with reduced problematic symptoms - i.e. pain and discomfort. Since my goal is health and overall fitness (and yes I want to look good too so this is in no way shape or form a compromise - my "stats" prove otherwise) I have to make more intelligent choices based on what my goals are therefore not always training to utter failure is part of my plan of action. I follow no schedule of practice but work on how I feel - yes I am an instict type trainee and trainer - I feel that works best for me and the people I train. Although 90% of my workouts revolve around 1 good, hard set of a handful of exercises, I do at times perform submaximal effort multiple sets. This can be done for a general overall workout to induce a good amount of volume that doesn't put me on the floor but does elevate my heart rate and IMO stimulates muscle. Not all work has to be overload to be progressive - meaning sometimes one step back allows for two steps forward.I also believe and practice "other" type exercises that are done for multiple sets as a therapeutic means to achieve my goal - i.e. HEALTH (defined as a strong musculature, cardiovascular system, immune system, mind, spirit, etc.). My point here is that as high intensity "purests" if you will we have to continue to ask ourselves if what we are doing is serving our purpose, our goals that have been established and we must not be guided or guilted or persuaded into making decisions that do not directly help us step closer to our goals. If we do - we compromise ourselves and then defeat our purpose in the long run. - Fred Fornicola