Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Heat, Cold, Altitude – Sports Under Extreme Conditions

We all know what it feels like after a hard workout: Your muscles burn. You can feel every part of your body. You’re sweating. Workouts can be tough and demanding. You are pushed to your limits. But even if you give it your all, your performance is not always the same. Why is that? Well, not only does your mental and physical health affect your performance, but environmental factors also play a crucial role in your training. So what exactly happens to our bodies in heat, cold and at altitude? Is it possible to adapt to these conditions? And what effect does it have on our performance? Here, you can find out more about training in the heat, cold and at altitude.


What happens to your body?

When we train at extremely high temperatures, heat is increasingly being produced, putting our bodies under stress. Generally there are two types of heat stress: heat stress, which can be compensated by our body through heat dissipation and non-compensable heat stress.

What does this mean for your exercise performance?

As long as the temperature remains within a reasonable range, our body can counteract an increase in body temperature by producing sweat. Through the evaporation of sweat, heat is then transferred to the environment. The regulation of increased heat production is also made possible through blood distribution. In this scenario, heat is transported by the blood to the outer surface of the skin, allowing it cool.

For non-compensible heat stress, it is no longer possible for the body to compensate for the increase in heat production, via necessary heat dissipation. This creates an increase in body temperature, which ultimately leads to the loss of our athletic performance. No matter how hard you try, you will simply not perform at your best under such conditions.

How does your body adjust?

The good news: When we train for a long period of time at high temperatures, the body has time to adapt to the conditions. The production of sweat allows our body temperature to drop, lowering our heart rate. It is these factors that positively impact our training performance.


What happens to your body?

Extremely low temperatures can also put our body under stress. The body regulates the constriction and dilation of blood vessels so that we lose as little heat as possible. To increase the production of heat, our body develops “muscle tremors”.

What does this mean for your exercise performance?

The drop in body temperature affects the functioning of our muscles and heart. As your body cools down, your performance levels decrease.

By the way: Certain physical factors may also affect individual performance in extreme cold conditions. The amount of body fat is one such example. If your body has more fat, it can provide you with more energy in colder conditions. Fat acts as an insulator and protects the body from hypothermia.

How does your body adjust?

The good news: The body is also able to adapt to the cold. However, in this scenario, the adaption is slower and less pronounced than the adaption to extreme heat.


What happens to your body?

When training at high altitude, you will not find the same oxygen levels that you will find at sea level. As the altitude increases, the proportion of oxygen reduces as the air becomes less compressed, i.e. the air gets thinner.

What does this mean for your exercise performance?

Less oxygen available in the body will affect the red blood cells. When you absorb less oxygen, saturation of oxygen in our blood decreases. And since oxygen is a highly determining factor, especially for endurance performance, the result is a decrease in exercise performance when undertaken at high altitude.

How does your body adjust?
The good news: Adjustments are also possible here! What is known as erythropoiesos plays a key role. It refers to the increased formation of red blood cells, allowing the body to absorb more oxygen and transport it to various tissues. Increasing the duration of performance at high altitude will increase your endurance capacity.

If you are not achieving your Personal Best (PB) or Last Time (LT), your performance is not always a clear reflection of the amount of training you undertake. Environmental conditionals also play a role. The crucial factor is to ensure you have given everything. And: For all workouts that you undertake in extreme conditions, you should always keep in mind that every body is different and therefore reacts differently to situations. Give what is possible. Listen to your body. And reach your goals.


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

5 Ways To Get More Of Your Workout

While you will notice almost daily improvements from workout to workout in the beginning, you will sooner or later get into a phase of seeming stagnation. First, relative progress decreases steadily – be it in performance or in physical development – until one day, it will be extremely hard to achieve any improvement – even though you may still be giving it your best effort! This is not the time to give up. It is, however, the point to find the possible causes and make appropriate adjustments. Below, we will describe the five most common reasons for lack of progress and what you can do to counteract it. 

Technique - the key to success!

Workouts and exercises practised frequently and involving a certain routine periodically require you to take a look in the mirror and check yourself, to have others review your work or to record your workout on video and compare your performance with the tutorial videos.

Even experienced athletes at a very high fitness level repeatedly find weak points and optimization gaps during their workouts or mistakes that creep in repeatedly. Constant checking and improving the technique can help you take your training to the next level and to make it more effective. A good way to consciously focus on execution, posture and body tension and to optimize them, is to complete exercises with low repetition rates as technique training.

Stimulus for training – Keep boredom at bay!

Working out means exposing your body to stimuli that it adapts to and in the course of which it will reach a higher level. If, however, you repeat the same workouts and exercises too often, or if you don’t increase the degree of difficulty and volume, hardly any new training stimuli will be achieved. As a result, stressed muscles will barely be developed any further.

We therefore recommend to dare to attempt workouts and exercises which you have never done before or to take into consideration increasing levels of difficulty, volume, changing workouts and training workloads and thus put you on the fastest route to achieving your objective.

Regeneration - Strength is born of rest!

If the body is not given sufficient time for regeneration, the systems involved – muscles, metabolism, lung, nervous and cardiovascular systems – constantly find themselves in a slightly depleted state and thus unable to perform optimally. A reduced training workload as well as taking longer breaks between workouts will give your body the time it needs to process the stimuli of high intensity training.

Sleep - when the body is running on overdrive

Closely related to the theme of regeneration is the topic of sleep. The above systems regenerate during sleep. If you sleep irregularly, restlessly or simply too little, the hormones essential for regeneration cannot work effectively. This may result in weak performance, sluggish development and low stress tolerance, but also in negative effects on mental performance.

It is therefore advisable to accustom yourself to a regular sleep pattern by trying to go to bed and rise at the same time, and to get about 7.5 hours of good sleep to best take advantage of sleep cycles.

Those suffering from sleep disorders of any kind should avoid training shortly before bedtime, because it increases one’s body temperature for several hours after training and impacts the production of the sleep hormone melatonin. Having a big evening meal may also complicate falling asleep and the onset of the desired recovery processes, as the body uses too much energy on the process of digestion.

If you suffer from severe sleep problems, which do not improve despite the above recommendations, you should search for the cause and, if necessary, consult a doctor. Achieving a good sleep pattern is necessary for good athletic performance and the quality of life in general. Also overtraining with inadequate recovery breaks can vice versa manifest itself in insomnia.

Nutrition - the right fuel is decisive!

One of the most common reasons for performance stagnation is a diet not tuned to your needs. While it is easy to find an acute cause for some not-satisfactory training performance – such as eating too much or too shortly before training, excessive alcohol consumption or general performance-reducing factors such as cigarettes – you will need to take a closer look, if stagnation persists over a longer period. Keep asking yourself: What are the factors affecting my performance? Where can I get more out of my training?

Do I absorb too much or too little of a nutrient type? Is there a mismatch of macro-nutrients? Is the quality of the food I consume high enough or do the “little sins” take over? Do I absorb sufficient micro-nutrients from fresh fruit and vegetables? Is my water intake adequate?

Changes in athletic and physical development are accompanied by changes in nutritional requirements. What worked well at the start may later on show only small effects. The reason is that your metabolism is adapting too. The good news: Especially in the field of nutrition, you may sometimes have to adjust only a few small screws, which will then drive you to new peak performances.

So if you have the feeling of not getting ahead or if you feel weak and exhausted in any way, other factors may often be the cause – not the training itself. Physical and athletic developments or performances do not distinguish an athlete, but mental strength does: the decision not to resign but to identify weaknesses, to work on them, and to continue to develop. In this, each person starts at his own level and will have to find inner strength: be it a beginner who improves his performance in a workout by several minutes from today to tomorrow, or be it an advanced athlete who struggles for weeks to improve his performance by a few seconds: Sweat, effort, and the absolute will to continue and to improve yourself steadily will make a Free Athlete out of every one of us!

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