Teaching our athletes that excellence and success is achieved by being consistently committed to higher levels of training and competing. Our training is based on scientific principles: base training (off-season and in-season),consistency, adaptation, progression, recovery, specificity, individual differences, flexibility,confidence-building, season development (mentally/physically), short and long-term goals,moderation, and balance. Development and education of the athlete in the sport of Cross Country and DistanceRunning will be stressed. Coaches will be knowledgeable, friendly, accessible, organized, flexible, positive, creative,honest, enthusiastic, and always continue to learn about the sport. Everyone contributes and is important to the team. Hard work and fun can always be emphasized together.
All athletes who earn the right to compete and represent Ogallala in at least 25% of our varsity meets will earn a letter. Also running faster than a varsity athlete will also count towards letter requirements. Those who do not meet this requirement may earn a letter by having a faster time than any varsity runner (from any school) at half or more of our meets this season. A letter will also be earned by athletes who compete at the SWC Conference, District, or State meets. Each athlete must also complete the season in good standing to earn a letter.
1) Have practice appropriate clothing and shoes.
2) Advise the coach if you are ill or have any prolonged
symptoms of illness.
3) Advise the coach if you have been injured or have any prolonged symptoms of injury.
4) Engage in warm-up activities prior to strenuous participation.
5) Be alert for any physical hazards in the locker room or in or around the participation area.
6) Run only on the course prescribed by the coach.
7) Run in pairs in unfamiliar territory or in areas where there are few people.
8) Watch for objects being thrown from passing cars.
9) Approach dogs with caution.
10) Be familiar with basic first aid treatment for heat exhaustion, heat stroke, and other runner related injuries (described in a later section).
11) Face the oncoming traffic when running on roads. Be cautious at intersections and be acutely aware of erratic drivers.
12) Travel to and from off-campus facilities shall be in accordance with the directions of the coach.
A runner’s success will depend on four things. Naturally, their ability as a runner is a huge key, but Cross Country is a sport where you can work your way to the top. Therefore a runner’s willingness to train at higher levels and train smart is second. Thirdly, nutrition plays a big part; you can’t race the car if there’s no gas in the tank. Nutrition will be discussed in more detail later. Finally, an athlete needs proper rest to recover and be ready to train another day. Special information regarding nutrition, hydration, and rest can be found in later sections of this handbook.
* Compete to the best of your ability
* Practice Sportsmanship
* Support your Teammates
* Absolutely no Public Displays of Affection
* Warm-Up properly as a team, this includes focusing mentally
* Cool Down properly as a team
* Take care of any injuries ASAP
* STAY for the ENTIRE meet
We hold by the philosophy that “we come as a team and we leave as a team”; if you do need to leave a meet early you will only be allowed to leave with your parent(s) or guardian(s).
* Wear school issue meet apparel
* Absolutely No Jewelry, this will lead to disqualification from the meet
Sportsmanship is the ability to accept graciously, winning and losing. It is the ability to know that life is made up of both successes and failures and to know that we must be able to deal with both.
Sportsmanship is that attitude which projects the opponent as an equal not an enemy. Your rival is worthy of your respect and admiration.
Sportsmanship is the ability to recognize the talents and abilities of others, even when it means accepting the fact that someone else is more proficient than we are.
Sportsmanship is the courage it takes to play the game within the rules. It is the ability to accept the decision of the officials and the coach without demonstrating inappropriate behavior.
Sportsmanship allows the individual to be able to offer his/her hand in victory in order to console the opponent and to offer his/her hand in defeat in order to congratulate the opponent.
Take your responsibility to be a good sport in a very serious manner.
FUNDAMENTALS OF SPORTSMANSHIP
1) Gain an understanding and appreciation for the Rules of the contest.
2) Exercise representative behavior at all times.
3) Recognize and appreciate skilled performances regardless of affiliation.
4) Exhibit respect for the officials.
5) Display openly a respect for the opponent at all times.
6) Display pride in your actions at every opportunity.
INJURY PREVENTION & REHABILITATION
Parents should be aware that a common result of initial training may be muscle soreness. Any athlete in intensive training could be subject to injury. The following are some common injuries that result from running and some prevention/rehab tips. If your child complains of any aliments please be sure they let us know. The sooner an injury can be identified and treated properly, the sooner athletes can continue with their training; the season is short enough the way it is, and we would hate to see them miss some of it.
Shin Splints: Probably the most common injury among runners—especially beginners— shin splints are painful cramps in the overstressed shin muscle (which pull the foot up). The pain may begin as a dull aching sensation after running. The aching may become more intense, even during walking, if ignored. Tender areas are often felt as one or more small bumps along either side of the shinbone. Spasms may squeeze off the veins and cause the injured muscles to become engorged, swollen, and hard, which makes running very painful if not impossible. The most common cause of shin splints is overuse: doing too much too fast. Other common causes are running on hard surfaces, worn out shoes, or a rapid increase of mileage.
Preventing shin splints means thoroughly warming up before runs, increasing workload gradually, and watching for the signs of overstressed legs (fatigue and constant pain). Wearing shoes with plenty of cushioning can often deter shin splints.
If your child is prone to shin splints they can strengthen their shin muscles with toe and ankle exercises. As they sit, point and flex toes, to make this exercise even more effective, strap lightweights around their feet. Toe raises (raising and lowering the heels while in a standing position) also stretch and strengthen the calf and shin area.
Some short-term treatments include: taking aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce inflammation and relieve pain, icing after running but not before, and reduce mileage for 7 to 10 days. Long-term treatments include: a strength and flexibility program to correct muscle imbalance, orthotic devices, and physical therapy.
Blisters: What’s the most common running malady of all? Would you believe blisters? Virtually all runners have suffered these annoying and potentially debilitating “hot spots”. Excessive friction, pressure, or moisture causes blisters. Not all blisters hurt, but if one does, it’s because the blister has irritated nerve endings beneath the skins surface.
Once a blister has developed, you can limit your child’s discomfort, decrease risk of infection, and speed their return to normal activities by following the proper procedures for opening the blister and draining the fluid. Here’s what to do:
1) Clean the area with iodine, alcohol, or Mercurochrome.
2) Use a sterile lance or needle (a needle heated under a flame will do) to poke a hole in the blister so the fluid can drain. Make sure the hole is large enough so the skin doesn’t close over, or the fluid will build up again.
3) Don’t remove the top skin once the fluid is drained; leave it in place to protect the sensitive under layer of skin.
4) Cover the area with a sterile gauze pad or Band-Aid. If the blister feels especially tender, pad it with moleskin.
5) For the next few days, keep your foot as dry as possible to prevent infection. Here are some prevention tips for blisters. If a certain area
of the foot is particularly susceptible to blistering, apply a lubricant such as petroleum jelly to the area before a run. Make sure running shoes fit properly. Shoes that are too small or too large can cause blisters. A good pair of acrylic socks will also help to cut down on friction. Getting your feet wet greatly increases your chances of developing blisters, so avoid running in wet areas and away from puddles. Also, make sure your socks and shoes are dry before you put them on for your run. If your feet sweat excessively, try a foot powder or a pair of the new running socks that wick away moisture.
Runner’s Knee: Runner’s knee occurs when the kneecap becomes misaligned and rubs on an underlying surface of cartilage. The repeated stress on the knee causes inflammation and a gradual softening of the cartilage under the kneecap. The inflammation of the cartilage prevents the kneecap from gliding smoothly over the end of the thighbone therefore causing pain and swelling of the knee. If the kneecap is pulled sideways, it becomes rough like sandpaper and the symptoms appear.
Runner’s Knee is usually associated with a pain that increases gradually over a period of time, often a year or longer, until it is severe enough that the athlete seeks medical attention. Usually the pain is described as soreness around or underneath the kneecap; it is aggravated by running or by climbing stairs. Stiffness may occur simply from prolonged sitting or descending stairs.
In most cases, you can relieve runner’s knee with rest, proper shoes, and a good training regimen. Decrease activity and consider biking or swimming. When recovering avoid any activity that puts weight on a bent knee. Rest if the knee is painful and swollen. Ice treatment for 15 minutes twice daily after activity to reduce pain and inflammation. When the pain is gone, you can resume running, but intersperse it with walking. Stay on level surfaces and avoid hills and stairs. Don’t do deep knee bends. To forestall further injury and strengthen your quadriceps muscles, which give muscular balance and support to your kneecap, add some progressive resistance exercises (with your knee extended).
After exercising, ice your knee for 8 to 10 minutes. In the evenings, apply moist heat.
Iliotibial (IT) Band Syndrome: The iliotibial band is a sheet of connective tissue that runs down the outside of your thigh from your hip to the side of your knee; it acts as an important stabilizer for your knee.
Iliotibial band syndrome (ITBS) is a friction injury caused by the iliotibial band rubbing over the outside of the knee, a normal motion that becomes a problem under the pressure of hard running. The initial treatment is rest.
Symptoms of ITBS range from stinging sensation just above the knee joint on the outside of the knee or along the entire length of the iliotibial band to swelling to a thickening of the tissue at a the point where the band moves over the femur. The pain may not occur immediately, but will worsen during activity when the foot strikes the ground if you over stride or run downhill, and may persist afterward. A single workout of excessive distance or a rapid increase in weekly mileage can aggravate the condition.
ITBS can result from a number of causes: bowed legs, excessive pronation (turning in of your foot) and leg length differences. Hard downhill running or excessive speed work can precipitate the condition. Running exclusively on the same side of the road can bring on ITBS in the curbside knee. Inadequate warm-up or cool-down. The best course for recovery is to stop running immediately and rest for two weeks. Meanwhile, reduce inflammation by icing three times a day. Begin a stretching program to loosen the band. Before you try running again, check your shoes to see if there’s excessive wear on the outside of the heels. If there is, buy new ones with ample heel support and rear foot cushioning. At first, run only on soft surfaces. Avoid hills and speed work. If your knee hurts at any point in the run, stop immediately and stretch. Ice the knee and try running again the next day after more iliotibial stretches.
Achilles Injuries: The Achilles tendon is a tough, elastic cable through which the muscles of your calf transmit force to your foot. Injuries to it come from sudden tearing or micro tearing (tendonitis). Sudden tearing that leads to partial or even total rupture is triggered by an isolated incident, and it often requires surgical attention.
Micro tearing signaled by gradually building pain, can progress to partial or even total rupture if there is no healing. Symptoms include pain and stiffness that are at their worst when you awaken. The pain diminishes as you warm up, and it may even disappear when you run. When you cool off, though, the pain returns. The next day you’re even stiffer.
Most injuries to the Achilles tendon come from improper footwear, improper warm-up, rapid increase in mileage, gout, inadequate flexibility, or severe, uncorrected pronation. The key to recovery from micro tearing is rest and modified exercise with gentle stretching. Follow this procedure for a week to 10 days. When you resume running, build up your mileage gradually, train on alternating days, avoid hill running, ice after runs, and make sure you have proper shoes. If your injury has led to partial or total rupture, cease running and see your physician. Follow his/her advice for recovery and rehabilitation.
Plantar Fascititis: The plantar fascia is a band of tough connective tissue that runs from the base of your toes to your heel bone and supports the bottom of your foot. Planter fascitiis occurs when this band tears near the bottom of the heel. This injury is most common in runners who overpronate or who have high arches or flat feet. Initial treatment includes taping your foot and applying ice.
Pain from plantar fasciitis starts in your heel and then radiates into the midsection of your foot. Usually the pain is severe in the morning and as you start to run, but it becomes more tolerable as your walk or run. But an hour or so after you stop running, the pain returns. Plantar fasciitis worsens gradually; so early recognition can prevent a serious case.
Plantar Fasciitis is more common in athletes who have a high-arch, rigid type of foot or a flat, pronated foot. In motion, the plantar fascia experiences continuous stress and excessive pulling which results in inflammation and pain. Improper shoe selection can be a cause of the injury; foot and gait type must be considered when purchasing shoes. Stiff-soled shoes can cause stretching of the plantar fascia. Over worn shoes allow the foot to pronate more extensively and can result in an injury to the plantar fascia.
When you first suspect you have plantar fasciitis, check your running shoes. If a shoe fits properly and has a flexible sole, sturdy heel counter, proper Achilles cushion and adequate toe box and heel lift, it can help absorb the stresses of normal running. If it doesn’t have those features, it can cause injury—so discard it. To relieve discomfort from plantar fasciitis, tape your foot before running. After running, use an ice massage. For additional relief, consider using a customized orthotic. Calf muscle stretching exercises can also help in treating plantar fasciitis. If, despite treatment, your pain becomes severe, stop running and switch to another sport until you can determine the cause.
Stress Fractures: Stress fractures are tiny, incomplete breaks or cracks in a normal bone caused by repeated trauma or pounding. One of the most misdiagnosed of athletic injuries, stress fractures can happen after a short period of stress, but more commonly after a longer period of continued trauma. When the bone cells cannot rebuild as fast as the repetitive trauma damages them and the bone can take no more stress, the crack occurs. Stress fractures can occur in both the upper and lower body, but they are most common in the foot.
The pain related to a stress fracture begins gradually and intensifies with continued activity. Pain however is not always present as an early warning, or it is often ignored by the athlete. Swelling and tenderness may also affect the area. One of a physician’s best methods in determining a stress fracture is if pain is felt when pressure is applied from above and below. X- rays of the injured site should be taken, though the fracture may not show up for the first 5 to 10 days after the injury. When stress fractures are ignored the results can be serious. Complete breaks in the bone, especially in the hip area, may necessitate surgery or prolonged disability.
Heat Cramps: Painful cramps and spasms of active muscles, most common of the calf muscle, caused in intense, prolonged exercise in the heat and depletions of water and salt due to sweating.
Heat Fatigue: Feeling of weakness and tiredness caused by depletions of water and salt due to sweating and exercise in the heat.
Heat Exhaustion: Characterized by extreme weakness, exhaustion, headache, dizziness, profuse sweating, and sometimes unconsciousness caused by extreme depletion of water and salt. Key feature that is different in heat exhaustion from heat stroke is the sweating skin.
To treat Heat Exhaustion Cool the body by applying cool water to the skin and fanning the body to cause evaporation and cooling. Give fluids to the athlete if they are able to swallow.
Heat Stroke: An acute medical emergency caused by overheating from a breakdown of the thermoregulatory mechanism. Associated with high body temperature, lack of sweating, disorientation, seizures, and possible unconsciousness or coma. It may also occur suddenly without being preceded by any of the other clinical signs. The individual is usually unconscious with a hot, dry skin and a rising body temperature.
Heat stroke is a medical emergency—delay of treatment could be fatal. Immediately cool body while waiting transfer to a hospital. Remove clothing and apply cool water to the skin and fan the body. Fanning causes evaporation and cooling.
GENERAL INJURY PREVENTION TIPS
1) Use cold water over your legs after a run or workout. Cold-water helps the legs recover quicker—just like putting ice over an injury. In the summer, simply running the garden hose over the legs for a couple of minutes will do the trick. Alternately, get in the shower and run cold water over your legs.
2) Soak your legs in a hot bath with Epsom Salts regularly. This is a great way to stop injuries before they happen. Epsom Salts have magnesium in them which can draw inflammation out of the muscles. The hot water helps loosen up muscles so when you’re done in the bath, take a few minutes to stretch the muscles while they’re warm.
3) Massage can lead to more pain-free training miles and harder workouts—and as a result, greater fitness and better racing times. Regular massage makes for healthier muscles by pushing lactic acid and metabolic waste products out and working fresh blood in. It can be the perfect antidote for sore, troublesome legs, often preventing the occurrence of injuries. Self-massage is very effective. Using a rolling pin over legs can create a deeper and more effective massage.
Running and Competing in Hot Weather: Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are life threatening medical conditions that can be caused by running too long or too hard in hot, humid weather. Both require immediate medical assistance. Take these precautions to run safely in hot weather:
Maintain an adequate intake of foods high in potassium: citrus fruits, bananas, dates, raisins, and apricots.
Don’t push yourself for personal best running times. Exercise less than normal for a week or until you become acclimated to the heat. Run during the coolest times of the day—usually early morning or in the evening just after the sun has set. Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Stop running if you start to feel dizzy, weak, light-headed, or excessively tired. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after running. An extra quart a day is recommended. Wear a lightweight, light-colored hat with a visor. One made of porous absorbent material is ideal.
Running and Competing in the Cold: In cold weather, you are prone to injury because your muscles and tendons are tight. What’s more, your fingers, toes, nose, lips, and ears are susceptible to frostbite. You can suffer broken bones if you slip and fall on ice. Make running in cold weather enjoyable by heeding this advice
Wear several layers of thin clothing to keep warm. Nylon is especially good because it acts as a wind barrier.
Wear a wool knit ski cap to conserve body heat and prevent frostbitten ears. Wear mittens or gloves to protect your fingers from the cold. Keep feet dry. Warm up slowly and completely before running.
Run during the warmest part of the day—usually noon or early afternoon. Run into the wind when you start your run and with the wind when you return.
Running at Night: Potholes, rocks, uneven terrain, and oncoming cars are your biggest problems when running at night. These tips should make nighttime running safer:
Run against the traffic. Wear reflective clothing. Scout out the terrain in daylight, before your run, for rocks and holes.
We as coaches cannot stress enough the importance of water. Purchase a water bottle and carry it with you during the school day. Water will be provided at practice, but hydration starts long before practice begins. Proper hydration for practice and meets begins the moment after the previous days workout. We encourage you to encourage your to drink as much water as possible. Watch the amount of water that is consumed at home as well as at school; especially after practice to be sure that you are replacing what was lost. There is great hydration information here, so please take the time to read it.
Forget about every other question you have about nutrition until you’ve figured out how to stay hydrated. Being smart about water intake can separate good performance from great performance.
You are mostly water. In fact, if you took the water out of a 180-pound lean body, there would be about 55 pounds left. Because your muscles, your brain, your blood and sweat are mostly water, your body doesn’t work like it should when it doesn’t have enough water. You don’t think as clearly, you lose endurance and your heart works harder.
When you’re severely dehydrated, sweating stops and your body overheats. The result— fatigue, weakness, dizziness, and collapse, or worse. In fact, every year, deaths in young healthy athletes are linked to severe dehydration.
Sometimes you don’t see sweat, like when you swim. But you sweat whenever your body heats up from working out. Sweat is your body’s cooling system. Evaporation of sweat from your skin cools you down. When you sweat, you lose water from your body and that water must be replaced. Replacing the water takes a plan.
You might be thinking “What’s the big deal? Won’t drinking when I’m thirsty guarantee that I’m hydrated?” Surprising, no. During exercise, for reasons not totally understood, humans don’t drink enough to prevent dehydration. You need to drink before you’re thirsty and keep drinking after you no longer feel thirsty.
Forget about the old rule of drinking 8 glasses per day. Your child probably needs more than that on most days. Counting how many glasses you drink is only one way of keeping track of what you need.
A better way of making sure you’re hydrated is to check your body weight before and after practice. For accuracy, weigh in minimal clothing if there’s privacy, and afterwards, change out of sweaty clothing before you weigh. The weight lost during practice or competition is not fat, it’s water loss. One pint of water weight one pound. To replace the water, drink one pint of fluid for every pound you lost (one pint = 16 ounces = 500 ml = 1⁄2 liter). It is critical to replace the water loss as quickly as possible. Before your next workout, your weight should be back up to normal. If you can’t check your weight, pay attention to your body for signs of dehydration. Your mouth should not be dry. Your urine should be lemon-colored most of the time. More than one episode of dark yellow urine is a warning sign that you don’t have much reserve (exception: vitamins supplements can turn your urine yellow-orange, even if you are hydrated). Loss of appetite, stomachaches, and muscle cramps can be other warning signals of dehydration.
Drink before, during, and after working out. Drink a pint or so of fluid a few hours before exercise. This will help make sure you are hydrated and give you enough time to urinate if you need to beforehand.
Keep drinking during exercise. And don’t worry about getting too much fluid. If you’re sweating, your body needs a constant supply. Your stomach might gurgle, but your body will absorb and use the fluid. Feeling sick and cramping have been blamed on too much water when in fact, stomachaches and muscle cramps are usually signs of not drinking enough fluid.
Drinking fluids after workouts is extremely important. Even when drinking fluids during a workout, many athletes become dehydrated. Athletes working out in the heat for several hours can lose 10 pounds, that’s more than a gallon of water.
When you have figured out how to stay hydrated, especially when you sweat heavily, you have accomplished the single most important performance-enhancing aspect of nutrition.
WATER IS THE MOST IMPORTANT NUTRIENT!
A well-balanced diet is an asset for any individual and especially an athlete. Any nutritional changes should occur gradually. On meet days high fat and fried food, eggs, and carbonated and acidic beverages (pop) should be avoided. Also, limit intake of dairy products on meet days. They can cause digestive discomfort. Take advantage of easily digestible foods in low quantities. Water intake should not be limited. Generally, the last intake of food should be 2- 3 hours prior to the start of a race or practice. Recognize that each individual has different nutritional needs. Go into a race on the hungry side, the opposite can be detrimental. We as coaches cannot stress enough the importance of water. We encourage you to carry a water bottle during the school day. This will help you stay hydrated. Gatorade is helpful after a run or workout to help replace electrolytes the body lost during a workout or race. We also recommend that you take a multivitamin with calcium and iron supplements. These will help ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients your body needs.
BASIC FOOD RULES TO FOLLOW:
–What to pack—Proteins & Carbohydrates:
Granola Bars Pretzels String Cheese
Fruit Nuts (almonds, cashews, etc.) Dried Fruit
Sunflower Seeds Trail Mix Crackers
Peanut Butter Canned tuna/chicken Vegetables
Beef Jerky Applesauce Sealed Fruit
–Pack small serving sizes in small bags/containers and snack every other hour.
The goal is to keep your metabolism at a constant level.
1) Eat broiled, boiled, or baked foods rather than fried foods
2) Do not over-eat
3) Eat three meals a day as well as small snacks to help keep your body fueled
4) Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
5) Take a multivitamin with calcium and iron supplements
6) Drink plenty of water
MEET DAY MEALS (Avoid sugars and fats)
BREAKFAST: Fruit or Fruit Juice
Toast or whole grain cereal with fruit Low-fat or skim milk Water
LUNCH: Salad (light or no dressing) Bread or other starch, such as potatoes
Low-fat or skim milk Small amount of meat or cheese Water
This is usually the pre-meet meal unless it is a night or morning meet. Eat your pre-meet meal at least 2-3 hours before warm-ups begin.
POST-MEET MEAL: Protein (meat or poultry) Juice
Low-fat or skim milk SNACKS: Fruit, crackers, cheese, vegetables, milk, water, juice, pretzels, granola bars, power bars. (Always be sure to bring snacks to share with your coaches!)
THE BEST ENERGY FOODS FOR ATHLETES
Oatmeal Buckwheat Pasta Crab Sardines Bananas Cantaloupe Baby Carrots Milk-based Soups Low-Fat Yogurt Lean Roast Beef Chicken Tofu Dark Chocolate
Dark Bread Whole-wheat Pasta Salmon Cod Oranges Fruit Kabob Broccoli Sweet Potato Low-Fat Cheese Top-Round Ground Beef Lamb Nuts Baked Potato Chips
Quinoa Shrimp Mackerel Tuna Strawberries Beans Asparagus Skim Milk Lettuce
Soymilk Peanut Butter Rice Cakes
IRON (The most important mineral in the body)
Iron is a natural mineral that our body needs. One of the main functions of Iron is to help red blood cells transport oxygen to our muscles. This is an extremely critical function for runners with regard to training and recovery. Signs of low iron levels are constant fatigue (do you feel tired all the time?) and lower concentration levels. Low iron is more prevalent in females in males. If you believe your iron count may be low, the only way to know for sure is through a blood test. Here is a simple recipe to help increase your iron levels: mix one teaspoon of a liquid iron supplement (feosol) in a glass of orange juice. If you cannot find iron supplements in a liquid form, you can also crush iron tablets and mix those in orange juice. The orange juice helps your body absorb the iron. NOTE: If you do not have low iron and are not feeling the side affects of low iron levels, do not take in additional iron outside of what is contained in a regular multivitamin.
The following is from an article entitled “Sleep: Why Settle for Less?” Sleep is often one of the most overlooked aspects of training for all athletes, probably because only the athlete (that’s you) can control it. We coaches strongly encourage you to read through this section and put what it suggests to practice.
Neither Laura not Paula slept well the night before the race. Paula studied until 3 a.m. and Laura drove through the night to get to the meet. At the starting line Laura felt loose and confident. When the gun sounded she broke from the field and led to the finish line. Paula dropped out at the midway point.
Both had been deprived of sleep, but each performed differently. Why?
Scientists have long studied this phenomenon and they still cannot fully explain it. Most agree, however, that sleep is a time of mental and physical rejuvenation, and those who do not get enough manifest significantly shortened attention spans and reduced motor skills. For an athlete, lack of sleep seriously impairs training consistencies, mental alertness and overall performance during competition.
Researchers have discovered there are essentially two types of sleep loss—acute and chronic.
Acute sleep loss is short term—one or two nights—and those who suffer from it become childish and irritable. Even ordinary tasks seem more difficult. These symptoms, however, are caused by an individual’s perceived lack of sleep. Actually very little physical change results from acute sleep loss.
Dr. German Nino-Murcia, director of the Stanford University Sleep Disorder Center at Palo Alto, California, says, “Acute sleep loss does not actually affect athletic performance. But if an athlete believes it does, then it will.”
Obviously, Paula believed it would and it did.
Chronic sleep loss, on the other hand, is the accumulation of many nights of insufficient sleep. According to Dr. Wendy Bevier of the Stanford Sleep Center, this leads to physical deterioration that reduces all aspects of athletic performance—speed, power, endurance, balance, agility, and reaction time. “Impaired ability in any one area is detrimental to an athlete, “ says Dr. Bevier. “But it is devastating when all are affected. Practice time, the key to improvement, is wasted and as a result performance in competition drops.”
Studies performed at the Stanford Sleep Center by Dr. Mary Carskadon show that adolescents require about nine and a half hours of sleep every night. “But to find one who gets that much is very difficult,” she says. “Social pressures and academic responsibilities make it practically impossible for them.”
So if you can’t always get enough sleep, it’s important to at least receive the maximum benefit from what you do get. Continuous, consolidated sleep is the key to the complex rest cycle. Ten minutes here and 15 there simply won’t do.
The most important step toward good sleep is to establish a routine. No matter what time you go to bed, wake up the same time every morning, even on weekends. And don’t get caught in the vicious of trying to catch up. You can’t store extra sleep, not can you make up for it all at once. Your system will function better if you maintain a regular schedule. An erratic and changeable one leaves the body out of sync—and tired.
Listen to your body. Everyone requires a different amount of sleep. “You need as much as it takes to remain alert and wide awake all day,” says Dr. Carskadon. “Like hunger, sleepiness is a very reliable sign that a basic need must be fulfilled. Sleep allows us to be awake.”
Ultimately, adequate sleep helps an athlete perform to his capabilities.