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Engineering Athletes: Building Bodies, Building Minds

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ORLANDO, Fla. ( Ivanhoe Newswire) - Some do it for their health, others for the thrill of competition. Weekend warriors don't collect a check for their blood, sweat, and tears, but they're using high tech and sometimes unorthodox ways to boost their performance.

From getting your blood drawn in the middle of a run.

"This is science at its greatest," Sharlyne Rivera, a national training center exercise physiologist, told Ivanhoe.

To having every stride scrutinized.

"And see where we can make some improvements," Joe Simko, a physical therapist, said.

To being hypnotized?

"My job is to have them ready before they go out on the field," Dan Vitchoff, sports mental and performance coach, said.

It's what these athletes are doing to improve their performance. Heather Hidock, an avid runner, tests her lactic acid threshold whenever she can. It's the point during exercise when Lactic acid builds up in our blood faster than our bodies can remove it. Figuring out what her threshold is can help increase it, and in turn build endurance.

Physiologist Sharlyne Rivera said it helps runners pinpoint what pace or training zone is best for them.

"People are disillusioned into thinking that you always have to go hard and go fast," Rivera said."

At a runner's clinic, Dave Calvert goes through a battery of bio-mechanics tests as he tries to qualify for the Boston marathon. He's having a problem with shin splints.

"There were a couple times where yes, I started out the door, within 25 seconds or so and just stopped," Dave Calvert said.

The team of doctors analyzes his form, stride, balance and diet. Doctor Darrin Bright said problems in any of these areas could lead to injuries. He should know- the doctor runs 100 mile ultra-marathons.

"Unfortunately, anywhere from a third to half of all runners will get injured each year," Darrin Bright, M.D., from the OhioHealth Runners clinic, explained.

And performance may come down to what goes in. Nutritionists help Dave maximize his carb intake with a formula. Divide your body weight by 2.2 and multiply that number by five, that will give you how many grams of carbs to aim for each day. As he focuses on mileage, Dave's mental condition is also important.

For 2008 Olympic gold medal-winning shooter Vincent Hancock is all about the mental game.

"That's the piece that makes or breaks you. That's what defines a winner," Vincent Hancock said.

Instead of hitting a regular gym, he and other athletes come to the mind gym.

"They're not going to get the watch, they're not going to be clucking like chickens or a duck or anything like that," Dan Vitchoff said.

Licensed hypnotist Dan Vitchoff said certain tones in specific music help him rewire connections in athletes' brains, so calm, focused responses are automatic under pressure.

"You're getting them into that state where they've done it thousands and thousands of times," Vitchoff said.

The power of suggestion and the power of high tech testing are giving these athletes the edge mentally and physically.

You don't have to be an endurance athlete to improve your mental game. A new study out of the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Illinois shows brisk walks helped the elderly remember things better. After a year on the exercise program, scans showed the participants' brains were growing and reversing their normal age-related shrinkage.

RESEARCH SUMMARY

BACKGROUND:  New technology has developed to improve an athlete's ability to perform their best mentally and physically.  Athletes are using blood drawn tests and hypnotism to improve their body and mind. 

LACTIC ACID THRESHOLD TEST: The lactic acid test is a blood test that measures the level of lactic acid made in the body.  Lactic acid levels get higher during excessive exercise.  The threshold is when lactic acids build up in our body faster than the body can remove it.  Figuring out what the threshold is can be used to increase performance by building up the levels of lactic acid, which will build endurance (Source: webmd.com).

BIOMECHANICS TEST: Biomechanics is the science concerned with the action of forces, internal or external, on the living body.   Computerized software is used to film and study the athletes' total body movement.  Doctors or specialists analyze the athletes' form and can determine exactly what movements they are doing wrong.  One area of major concentration over the past few years is that of biomechanical analysis. Coaches and athletes have traditionally used video cameras and videocassette recorders (VCR) to scrutinize and improve their performances. Today, computers and high-tech devices are available to retrieve, analyze, replay, edit, and print the desired performance into a three-dimensional (3D) stick figure image that is analyzed from different angles without the need for a VCR. (Source: Coachesinfo.com)

HYPNOTISM: Hypnotism for athletes is designed to remove destructive thoughts and self-limitations to create unshakable confidence and power. Hypnosis has been used for hundreds of years in many sports. The Russian team took 11 hypnotists with them to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Hypnosis is now used more and more in high level sport, including F1 racing, tennis, soccer, golf, gymnastics, etc. (Source: 33method.com).

  1. Hypnotherapy applies to athletics in the following areas:
  2. Increase endurance
  3. Improve performance
  4. Alleviate pre-competition anxiety
  5. Remove distractions
  6. Overcome mental obstacles
  7. Remove any negative thoughts before, during and after
  8. Focus and concentration
  9. Positive reframing of past negative experiences
  10. Increase motivation & determination
  11. Adjust body weight
  12. Remove hesitation
  13. Enhancing teamwork

INTERVIEW

Dr. Darrin Bright, Family Practice, Board Certified in Family Practice and also Sports Medicine, talks about sports training and how to achieve your maximum performance.

Tell about athletes that come to you.

Dr. Bright: What we find is two different groups, the people who are really trying to achieve to that next level whether it's a Boston time or perhaps they want an Olympic qualifying spot. So they're trying to find whatever they can do to get a little bit of an edge. We also have new runners who are really trying to explore ways of making sure they don't get hurt, are they doing everything right and what can they do to minimize their risk for injury in the future. They know it's really a lifelong commitment, it's a passion that they want to continue to pursue.

How do you know you're doing things right?

Dr. Bright: Well I think if you're doing things right you're definitely going to reduce your risk for injury. Unfortunately anywhere from a third to half of all runners will get injured each year. There are definitely some things you can do to try to do to minimize those risks.

What are the biggest mistakes people make?

Dr. Bright: I think too much too soon. They get out there and they think that the only way they're going to get faster is to run more miles and run faster. You really want to build up gradually. Get those base miles in and gradually increase your training program.

Does that work for all kinds of sport?

Dr. Bright: Most of my practice is runners so in for my practice I mainly see runners and those runners that I see are really making those big jumps. Maybe they're starting out with ten miles a week and they quickly build to thirty miles a week.

What do you think about studies that says running too much could be bad for your health?

Dr. Bright: I think that's one area where modern medicine has really let us down. There seems to be a phobia of running in medicine. Right now there's a big emphasis on evidence based medicine. Everything we do in modern medicine, for our chronic disease states is based off of studies and it's an area that we've really failed to look at the studies when it comes to running. When we look at the literature running is actually very good for us. There's no literature out there showing that running is going to cause arthritis, that running is going to cause any ill effects in the future. So I think really it's the contrary, running is actually a very good thing for you.

What about back injuries?

Dr. Bright: Definitely we see back pain but we also see back pain in non runners too. Often times if you're a runner people say; oh it's probably because you're running. But really there hasn't been anything that shows there's risk of back injuries in runners. Often times we find that there are some issues with some of the strength and balance in some of the muscles in our hips and lower back. That's an area that you ask is there something that you can do to try to prevent injury and definitely trying to identify those weaknesses and then strengthen and rehabilitate those areas to prevent issues in the future.

What are you trying to do here?

Dr. Bright: We have a couple of different purposes. One of our purposes or goals is to try to identify somebody who has had a recurring injury and see if there something that is breaking down whether it's their gait or body mechanics that we can identify to try to get them over that injury in the future. We also have a lot of people that are just looking at Boston or that qualifying spot and what can they do to try to make sure they're achieving maximum performance. We sat down with a group of professionals who are all runners and in the sports medicine field and looked at all runners in an open clinic design to try to identify what really needs to be assessed in runners.

Have you always been a runner?

Dr. Bright: I have.

What kind of running do you do?

Dr. Bright: I do all different distances, marathon is probably the distance I do the most but also did some ultra marathons as well.

Have you ever been injured?

Dr. Bright: Unfortunately yes, anywhere from a third to a half of all runners will become injured and I fall in to that group as well. Injuries will creep on you.

Did you stop running?

Dr. Bright: No I think the biggest thing with an injury is identifying it early and getting it taken care of early. I think too often runners are afraid to go to a doctor just because they're going to tell them not to run. I think it's a matter of trying to find those doctors that work with runners, understand running injuries so they can keep you running and hopefully get you over that injury quicker rather than waiting too long until it's too late.

Do you ever get tired of running?

Dr. Bright: It's just a challenge. I think once you've done one race you start looking at some other challenges and figure out what's that next thing out there.

What's your best time for a 100 mile race?

Dr. Bright: Twenty one hours fifteen minutes.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up?

Dr. Bright: There's always a time during the race when you start to think am I going to be able to do this and those are the low points in the race. But the good thing about those they will quickly be followed by an upswing and you start feeling a lot better.

How can people improve their performance every day?

Dr. Bright: Historically you hear a lot about the ten percent rule where you don't increase your weekly mileage by more than ten percent a week and that's a pretty good rule of thumb. I know there are times when maybe that rule doesn't always pertain but I think for people starting out don't increase your mileage by more than ten percent a week is a pretty good rule to follow. I think the other one is equipment, you don't need a lot of running equipment but equipment is definitely important when it comes to running. Make sure you've been properly fitted for running shoes. The surfaces you run on is also another important part, a lot of people run on concrete because that's most accessible, running on sidewalks. Some of our softer surfaces might be a little bit better like asphalt or even a trail.

How do you become a marathon runner?

Dr. Bright: I always recommend when you're starting out perhaps joining a running group, find some people who have been out there and doing this for awhile who can give you some training advice.

How do you choose a program for the people that come see you?

We've had a lot of people show up with injuries, whether it's the same injury or perhaps with different injuries. Once we can identify that, show them the cause and they see why the injury has happened. We're able to get them on a program to change that injury and get them back out there doing the thing they enjoy which is running.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:

Sharlyne Rivera,
(352)241- 7144, ext. 4202
 sharlyne.rivera@orlandohealth.com,.

Colin Yoder    
Media Relations Manager
OhioHealth
Office (614) 566-8855 | Mobile (614) 565-0619
cyoder@ohiohealth.com

Dan Vitchoff
Sports Mental Coach/ Performance Coach
(724)934-8446
coachdan33@gmail.com

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