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    The Importance of Mental and Physical Maintenance

    Going for Gold

    Behind the scenes with an official physical therapist for the US national rowing team

    By Brian W. Ferrie

    Posted on: October 23, 2012
    Vol. 23 • Issue 22 • Page 16

    It has been said that rowing offers the most intense full-body workout of any sport. Whether that’s true or not is probably a matter for subjective debate, but it’s easy to see why the claim would be made. Rowing pushes muscles and bones to their limits, while revving cardiovascular systems into overdrive. The entire body acts as an engine to propel a boat across the water as fast as possible. All the while, natural conditions such as wind, cold, sleet, heat or the drenching water itself can taunt competitors. It’s a test of strength, fitness, endurance, will and commitment.

    Injuries can naturally result from such a pursuit, made all the more complicated by the traditional rowing code of suffering in silence. Pain is something to be conquered, not capitulated to. It’s part of the test. Rowers are motivated not only by proving to themselves they can overcome any obstacle, but also the fear of letting down their teammates in the boat, brothers or sisters all. So how do you convince competitors who pride themselves on being toughest of the tough that sometimes the greater good is served by getting out of the boat to rest and rehab? That’s part of the challenging job of Marc Nowak, PT, MSPT, who for more than a decade has provided physical therapy to members of US Rowing.

    Tremendous Training

    “It amazes me how much training they do, and how they can mentally and physically tolerate those levels for such a long period of time,” Nowak told ADVANCE. “For most rowers in the national team program, you’re talking about at least a quadrennium. So that’s four to six years of working out constantly, six days a week, two to three practices a day. It’s high-load, long-duration workouts. High repetitive-stress injury levels, just from the constant training. And they’re amazingly tolerant, upbeat and motivated. To be able to do that on a daily basis is tough. Particularly when injury is sustained, because they tend to downplay their injury level.”

    US Rowing is headquartered in Princeton, NJ, which is also site of the clinic where Nowak works-Sports Physical Therapy Institute (SPTI). Nowak began working for SPTI in 1992 and specifically the Princeton location in 2002. What began as a few referrals to treat both male and female national team rowers eventually grew to Nowak becoming an official physical therapist for US Rowing. Along the way, he traveled to the 2004 Olympics in Athens, 2008 Olympics in Beijing and most recently the 2012 Olympics in London to provide therapy to national team rowers. For most of the last decade, Nowak served as the only therapy provider for both the

    Archive ImageA
    Marc Nowak, PT, MSPT, an official physical therapist for US rowing, has been providing treatment to the men’s and women’s national teams for more than a decade. Here he works with Ian Silveira, a member of the national team program, at a boathouse in Princeton, NJ, where US Rowing is headquartered.

    men’s and women’s teams. However, in 2010, the men’s team moved its training operations to Chula Vista, CA, where they now receive treatment from another official team therapist, Reiko Takahashi, PT. The women’s team has maintained its training operations in Princeton, where Nowak continues to provide exclusive PT treatment.

    “If you ask a rower with a rib stress fracture what her pain level is, the truth is she basically has pain with every breath she takes, but she’ll say it’s a 4 or 5 on a scale of 1-10,” Nowak related. “The average person would say it’s a 9 or 10. So I typically need to take their pain scale and multiply it. That’s what concerns me most. Particularly for certain athletes, if they even start complaining of a problem, I’ll get them in for treatment. Because if you give that problem a week under those stress levels, it’s going to become major.”

    Rib injuries tend to be the most common that Nowak encounters among elite-level rowers. These could range from stress reactions to stress fractures. There are also thoracic spine injuries, shoulder complex issues, and lumbar spine herniations or dysfunction. Erin Cafaro, a gold medalist in both 2008 and 2012 for the US women’s eight-person boat, can speak from experience about many of these occupational hazards.

    “My first year in the program, which was 2007, I tore the quadratus lumborum in my back,” she toldADVANCE. “Then in the spring of 2008, right before the Olympics, I broke a rib. Marc was able to rehab me back into the selection process so that I made the boat for Beijing. In 2009 and 2010, I stayed pretty healthy, maintaining my back and ribs with the help of exercises from Marc. Then in 2011, a month before the World Championships, I broke two ribs – one on each side. We were racing abroad when the first one broke, so Marc wasn’t there to convince me to stop, and that’s probably why I broke the second one too.”

    When Cafaro speaks about the job Nowak has done for her, equal parts respect, admiration and amazement emanate from her words.

    “I really don’t know what I or the rest of the girls would do without Marc. I literally have his number saved in my phone as ‘The Magic Worker.’ Once they catch on with the national program, most of the girls go see Marc at his clinic at least once a week, even if they aren’t injured or out from practice, just to maintain. Because you always have a weakness cropping up. Maybe it’s your back or ribs or both. You want to make sure it doesn’t get to that degree where you have to stop training or rowing because of injury. He basically helps keep us in the game.”

    Different Strokes

    There are two distinct types of rowing – sweeping and sculling. Sweeping is how rowers are typically introduced to the sport, even if they eventually become scullers. In sweeping, the practitioner uses both hands to hold one oar, rowing on only the port or starboard side of the boat. A fellow rower sweeps on the other side to provide balance. At the international level, there are three types of sweep boats – pair (two rowers), four and eight. In sculling, meanwhile, the rower holds an oar in each hand. International scullers may compete in the single, double or quadruple event. In some competitions, there are also lightweight and heavyweight divisions for the different strokes.

    Nowak hasn’t encountered an increased frequency of injury among one rowing type compared to the other. “I’ve seen just as many injuries with scullers and sweepers,” he related. “A lot has to do with sheer training volume as much as the style of rowing. So you’ll have fatigue setting in, overtraining, overstressed tissue just due to repetition. And that will attack both rowing groups.”

    He noted, however, that injuries to sweepers are more commonly due to musculoskeletal imbalance.

    “There tends to be more asymmetry in the sweep rowers, since you’re pulling predominantly from one side. So you commonly see strains or sprains more on one side than the other. It also sets up mild, and sometimes more than mild, functional scoliosis. Because a sweep rower has been sweeping for many years. At the high school and college levels, competitors mainly sweep. In the United States, most scullers don’t start that discipline until they’re already elite as a sweep. I think people who have sculled from the beginning are a little better off since they tend to be more technically savvy and have trained both sides of their system. But it’s just not that common.”

    Nowak did say he believes female rowers are more susceptible to injury than male.

    “Particularly for rib stress injuries, you’ll see predominance with women. And also with the lightweight men, although probably to a lesser degree. I think it has to do with force and work-to-bodyweight ratio. The heavyweight men are often 6-foot-4 or 6-foot-5, 200-pound-plus guys with a lot of muscle mass. The women are not as strong in the upper half of their bodies, especially the shoulders. And the lightweight men pull just as hard as the bigger guys, but they don’t have the weight or often the length to help with that. So your lever is shorter and you’re working harder. Therefore your breakdown is usually a little more frequent.”

    Male or female, lightweight or heavyweight, Nowak couldn’t speak more highly of rowers as a patient population.

    “They’re the best,” he said. “Very disciplined, educated and responsive to treatment. They want to row so they’re very motivated and encouraged to eliminate their problem, get back in the boat and compete with their teammates. They’re just an awesome group to interact with, very appreciative with a great sense of humor. I worry about them more because they won’t limit themselves until breakage. That’s their motivation level. They are elite and will take punishment you or I would not. There’s a reason why they’re out there.”

    London Calls

    Certainly Nowak’s Olympic experiences have ranked among the highlights of his involvement with US Rowing over the years. He talked to ADVANCE about his experience in England a few months ago for the 2012 Games, where he helped treat both the men’s and women’s teams.

    “London was great. The setup for rowing was wonderful and the volunteer system was amazing. Whatever help you needed, they had people there to guide you along the way. They put up tents for the rowers with exercise bikes and [ergometer] machines. We had a tent for rehab right at the water. The venue itself was beautiful and the crowd was amazing. I’ve never heard cheering for rowing before like there was in London. The Brits are very into it and the sheer crowd noise when rowers were coming to the finish line was just deafening.”

    To be part of that level of enthusiasm for the sport was exciting not only for Nowak, but also the rowers themselves. “Entering the last 500 meters with that kind of crowd, none of them had experienced it before, even at other Olympics,” Nowak added. “It was just tremendous.”

    Overall, the US men’s and women’s teams performed well, combining for three medals, with two other US boats each coming within 0.3 seconds of the podium.

    “I got to watch the events on closed-circuit TV,” Nowak related. “You stop working, run over, catch a race on TV, jump up and down and then get back to work again because there are other rowers who need treatment. It’s that kind of experience, which is very special. You’re in it and watching it, dealing with the good or bad. For the rowers, if they come back to the tent and didn’t do well, you’re trying to help with their frustrations in addition to their physical ailments. But when they do well, everything feels great to them. Nothing cures any problem better than a gold medal.”

    Brian W. Ferrie is managing editor of ADVANCE and can be reached at bferrie@advanceweb.com

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    Birke Baehr: What’s wrong with our food system

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    A Grain of Truth: Should You Avoid Grains?

    A Grain of Truth: Should You Avoid Grains?

    by Ryan Andrews

    Summary: Against the grain? Ryan Andrews is not. In this article he explains why he prefers to eat grains. And why, unless you’re intolerant to grains, you might consider them too.

    If somebody is writing about grains in 2012, it’s probably to tell you not to eat them.

    That’s because grains are a hot topic in the nutrition world. And rightly so. North Americans consume enormous quantities of grain, probably too much, both directly and indirectly.

    We eat grain in the form of cereal, bread, pasta, baked products, as a component in many processed foods, and, of course, by itself.

    Meanwhile, animals raised for meat are enormous grain-eaters too. So, when considering grain consumption, it’s important to think about how grains affect our health and our environment.

    There’s much to be said both for and against grain as a component of our diet. But when it comes right down to it, coach Ryan Andrews is personally in favour of eating grains.

    Here’s why.

    1. Yes, some people are intolerant to grains.

    Grains contain chemicals that can cause various health problems for susceptible people.

    Gluten, found in wheat, is a particularly common food intolerance. (Some evidence suggests that modern wheat varieties are more problematic.) However, other grains such as oats, rye, barley, and corn can also cause similarly negative health effects for some folks.

    But people are intolerant of lots of different foods, not just grains. If a food or drink makes you feel lousy, don’t consume it. Whether it’s wheat, kale, blueberries, or holy water – listen to your body.

    Meanwhile, if you aren’t intolerant to a certain food, the food goes along with your values, the food provides nutrients, and you enjoy the food, then why would you waste time trying to avoid it?

    2. Grain in a person’s diet says nothing about their health or fitness.

    I know people who don’t eat grains and they are muscular, lean and healthy.

    I also know people who eat grains and they are muscular, lean and healthy.

    In other words, as a Precision Nutrition coach, I’ve personally worked with thousands of clients. And I have yet to see a meaningful correlation between appropriate grain consumption and ill health.

    3. When I eliminate grains, I eat more vegetables, fruits, nuts, and other foods.

    While that may sound like a good thing at first, I assure you it’s not. In fact, when I eliminate grains, I overeat on other foods. This leads to body fat gain and lethargy after meals. Not good.

    Through self-experimentation, I’ve learned that eating grains helps me moderate my total food intake and improve my health.

    But this isn’t just about me.

    Again, I’ve coached thousands. And I see the same thing over and over again with my clients. Fewer grains eaten equals more meat, nuts and fruit. For a lot of them, that means more body fat.

    4. Another argument against grains? They contain toxins.

    So we’re told: Eat potatoes instead. Wait, potatoes contain toxins too.

    Okay, eat green veggies instead. Wait, green veggies contain toxins too.

    Wait… pretty much every naturally occurring food in existence contains toxins. We ingest toxins every day in low doses from all foods. Especially if we eat plant foods; they’re simply part of most plants’ defense systems.

    What about just eating animals? Well, if those animals eat plant foods, the toxins accrete in their tissues. So, yes, even animal foods contain these same naturally occurring toxins.

    We can’t get away from them no matter which foods we choose. Don’t believe me? See the references below.

    Many scholarly publications list the naturally occurring toxic chemicals in common foods. Heck, you can even find nicotine in familiar vegetables!

    It sounds scary. But think about this for a minute.

    The real issue isn’t whether or not a food contains any toxins. This issue is, how much of the toxic chemical is in the food, and does the chemical occur at a level that can be toxic to humans.

    If you really want to eliminate naturally occurring toxins, eat more processed foods. (Now there’s a solution for you!)

    Never forget: The major “toxins” that have been proven to promote disease and harm our health are excess food/ calories, processed fats, sugars, and processed meats.

    5. Our ancestors probably ate at least some grains.

    Long ago in some far away land, claims the theory, nutrition was simple and grains weren’t eaten.

    Fine. Neither were raw sprouted grain-less granola, hemp protein, kale chips, and honey chia bars. All of which I’ve consumed in the past week.

    In other words, just because something wasn’t eaten then, doesn’t mean we can’t eat it now.

    Besides, data indicate that grains probably were eaten back in the day:

    Uh-Oh Paleo: Grains Were Part of Hunter-Gatherers’ Diet
    So Long and Thanks for All the Fish – Is Paleo Dieting Finished?
    Thirty Thousand-Year-Old Evidence of Plant Food Processing
    The Paleo-Diet: Not The Way To A Healthy Future
    Did Cavemen Eat Bread?
    Built Like a Neanderthal 1
    Built Like a Neanderthal 2

    6. From an environmental perspective, grains make sense.

    Our food choices have a monumental influence on the amount of fossil fuel energy we consume. Check out these estimates:

    Grain/bean proteins require 2 units of fossil fuel energy / unit of protein they provide
    A broiler chicken requires 4 units of fossil fuel energy / unit of protein it provides
    Milk & pork require 14 units of fossil fuel energy / unit of protein they provide
    Eggs require 39 units of fossil fuel energy / unit of protein they provide
    Beef requires 40 units of fossil fuel energy / unit of protein it provides
    Lamb requires 57 units of fossil fuel energy / unit of protein it provides

    “But Ryan, you’d have to eat pounds and pounds of grains to get enough protein….”

    Don’t care. I eat enough protein and take care of it in other ways.

    The livestock population in the U.S. consumes more than 7 times as much grain as is consumed directly by the entire American population. If this grain were diverted to human consumption, we could feed more people.

    No matter how much you dislike grains, you will dislike the apocalypse more.

    7. But, I read Wheat Belly!

    So did I, and I’m not totally convinced.

    While it’s an eye-opening read, it’s still a popular press book full of interpretations of scientific data. And, often, smart people can reach different conclusions based on the same data.

    If you’re interested in an extensive discussion of the claims of Wheat Belly, check out this fully referenced review article:

    Wheat Belly—An Analysis of Selected Statements and Basic Theses from the Book


    In the end, here’s my argument…

    Grains can provide key nutrients (helping prevent malnutrition);
    are low in calorie density (helping prevent excess body fat);
    are earth friendly (preventing the apocalypse); and
    can help decrease our risk for chronic disease (cancer, heart disease, diabetes).

    Of course, if you can’t tolerate grains, or any other food, and they make you feel bad, stop eating them! (Duh).

    However, if you can tolerate them, don’t fall for the hype. Grains aren’t the next dietary evil. Excess food/calories, processed fats, sugars, and processed meats are what we still need to be concerned with.

    [Editor’s note: Ryan Andrews, is fit, lean, and strong. His body fat is less than 5% year-round. And he’s got a great blood profile. With 2 Masters degrees – one in Exercise Science and one in Nutrition – he’s single-handedly worked with thousands of clients through our Lean Eating Coaching Program. The point of saying all this? Well, it’s easy to dismiss some random blogger’s opinion. However, to dismiss the opinion of someone like Ryan – ripped, healthy, educated, and experienced – is folly. So, even if you disagree, his thoughts are worthy of consideration].

    Pimentel D & Pimentel M. Sustainability of meat-based and plant-based diets and the environment. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:660S-663S.

    Ames BN, Profet M, Gold LS. Dietary pesticides (99.99% all natural). Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 1990;87:7777-7781.

    Ames BN. Natural Carcinogens: They’re found in many foods. Health & Environment Digest.

    Domino EF, Hornbach E, Demana T. The nicotine content of common vegetables. N Engl J Med 1993;329:437.

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    This Video is a Must See…May Save You and Yours!

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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    A topic everyone should aware and knowledgeable about.

    Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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    5 Fatty Foods that Make You Skinny

    By David Zinczenko with Matt Goulding

    You are NOT what you eat.

    If we were what we ate, then people who ate lots of hot dogs and pork chops would be solid walls of muscle. People who ate lots of pasta would be stringy and fat-free. People who ate lots of pecan pie would be Zooey Deschanel (sweet, but nutty and flaky).

    And people who ate a lot of fat would be fat.

    What’s that, you say? That last sentence is true? People who eat fat are fat? Well, no, not necessarily. Science shows that eating fat won’t make you fat any more than eating money will make you rich.

    Now, eating foods that are packed with the wrong kinds of fat will make you fat. Trans fats found in pie crusts and other baked goods, and saturated fats found in processed and grain-fed meats, add hefty calories while doing mostly harm to your body’s nutritional bottom line. But healthy fats will do the opposite: They can quell your appetite, cutting the number of calories you eat in a day, while improving your heart health and stoking your metabolism.

    Delicious, fatty foods that help you lose weight? Where can you sign up? Right here!

    #1: Grass-Fed Beef

    Yeah, I know: grass-fed beef is a little pricey. But its higher ratio of good-for-you fats make it well worth the cost: A study in Nutrition Journal found that grass-fed meat contains higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known to reduce the risk of heart disease. And when it comes to your waistline, grass-fed beef is naturally leaner and has fewer calories than conventional meat. Consider this: A 7-ounce conventional strip steak, trimmed of fat, will run you 386 calories and 16 grams of fat. But a 7-ounce grass-fed strip steak is only 234 calories and five grams of fat—you’ll save more than 150 calories and your steak will taste better. Ready to take advantage of beef’s weight-loss potential? Pick up the all-new Grill This, Not That! It’s loaded with delicious recipes that have been specifically designed to save you cash and calories.

    #2: Olive Oil

    Olive oil is rich in cancer-fighting polyphenols and heart-strengthening monounsaturated fats, and when it comes to looking lean, it’s backed by some pretty strong facts. A recent study from Obesity found that an olive-oil-rich diet resulted in higher levels of adiponectin than did a high-carb or high-protein diet. Adiponectin is a hormone responsible for breaking down fats in the body, and the more you have of it, the lower your BMI tends to be. Reap the benefits by making olive oil your cooking fat of choice and using it in dressings and sauces.

    BUST BELLY FAT: Skipping breakfast increases your chances of becoming obese by 4.5 times, making it one of the 20 Habits that Make You Fat! How many do you need to break?

    #3: Coconut

    Coconut is high in saturated fat, but more than half of that comes from lauric acid, a unique lipid that battles bacteria and improves cholesterol scores. And get this: A study published in Lipids found that dietary supplementation of coconut oil actually reduced abdominal obesity. Of the participants, half were given two tablespoons of coconut oil daily and the other half were given soybean oil, and although both groups experienced overall weight loss, only the coconut oil consumers’ waistlines shrunk. Sprinkle unsweetened flakes over yogurt or use coconut milk in a stir-fry to start whittling your waist.

    SANDWICH SABOTEURS: Restaurant sandwiches are prime suppliers of fatty toppings. Watch out for overblown renditions like The Cheesecake Factory’s Grilled Chicken and Avocado Club. Clocking in at an astonishing 1,752 calories, it’s one of The 25 Worst Sandwiches in America.

    #4: Dark Chocolate

    Good news for your sweet tooth: Chocolate can help you flatten your belly. Dark chocolate, that is. But to truly take advantage, don’t wait until dessert: A recent study found that when men ate 3.5 ounces of chocolate two hours before a meal, those who had dark chocolate took in 17 percent fewer calories than those that ate milk chocolate. The researchers believe that this is because dark chocolate contains pure cocoa butter, a source of digestion-slowing stearic acid. Milk chocolate’s cocoa butter content, on the other hand, is tempered with added butter fat and, as a result, passes more quickly through your GI tract. Because dark chocolate takes more time to process, it staves off hunger and helps you lose weight.

    SWEET SUMMER: Dark chocolate is safe, but there are plenty of sweets to watch out for. Beware of the 6 Worst Desserts for Your Beach Body.

    #5: Almond Butter

    Numerous studies have indicated that almonds can help you lose weight despite their high fat content. In fact, a study from the International Journal of Obesity and Related Metabolic Disorders compared two diets over the course of six months. One group followed a low-fat, calorie-restricted diet (18 percent fat) and the other followed a moderate-fat diet (39 percent fat) in which the extra fat was supplied by almonds. The latter group lost more weight than the low-fat dieters, despite the fact that both groups consumed the same amount of total calories. Furthermore, the almond eaters experienced a 50 percent greater waistline reduction. How is this possible? Almonds contain compounds that limit the amount of fat absorbed by the body, so some passes through undigested. Try stirring almond butter into your oatmeal, spreading it on toast with banana slices, or eating a couple spoonfuls as a snack.

    Adapted from:  http://health.yahoo.net/experts/eatthis/5-high-fat-foods-make-you-skinny

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    You May have Forgotten….We Haven’t!

    The Forgotten Importance of Posture

    Often people think that fixing their posture is simply a matter of pulling their shoulders back and standing up straight. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Pulling the shoulders back is a conscious decision. Most of the time, when people are sitting and standing in a slumped-over posture, they aren’t conscious of their body positioning.

    If you want better posture, your goal should be to train your body so that the brain and muscles always maintain a healthy and pain-free posture – even when you’re not consciously thinking about it.

    You shouldn’t have to consciously remind yourself to pull your shoulders back and stand up straight. Strong, well-aligned muscles should naturally hold your body in a proper, neutral posture. So when you’re designing your next gym routine, keep in mind these five “healthy posture” tips. These five tips will help teach your body how to maintain good posture without thinking about it first.

    Five Healthy Posture Tips

    • Strengthen the muscles of the upper back by performing rowing motions in the gym, for example.
    • Stretch out the chest muscles by using a doorframe to stretch out your chest.
    • Train the core muscles so that the pelvis maintains a neutral alignment.
    • Include exercises that improve your balance. Excellent balance will allow you to move without having to looking at your feet. Constantly looking down can have negative effects on your posture.
    • Strengthen the neck muscles to help alleviate “forward head syndrome”. See the exercise examples below.

    In my opinion, the most frequently ignored element of posture is #5 – strengthening the neck muscles.

    Forward Head Syndrome

    A rounded posture is often accompanied with what we in the fitness world call a “forward head”. This is where the person’s head is in front of the rest of their body. Most of the time, a forward head is accompanied by a rounded upper back. It looks like you’re leading your movement with your head instead of your legs. A client of mine once described it as “turtle headed”.

    I’m telling you this for a reason: if you have a rounded posture, merely strengthening your upper back muscles while ignoring the neck will not fix your posture problem. This is because the head weighs 10 to 15 pounds, and the forward position of the head increases the strain on the muscles of the upper back and neck. Try these exercises to help with a rounded posture and forward head syndrome.



    1. Head Hover

    Lie on your stomach with your arms by your side and your forehead resting on the floor. Try to start with your head straight (not tilted to one side or the other). Imagine you’re wearing a mask and the imaginary mask is between your face and the floor. This is your starting position.
    To perform the exercise, lift your head off the floor and imagine you’re pulling your face away from the mask. Keep your eyes looking down and the crown of your head reaching forward. Keep your chest, arms and lower body on the floor. This exercise is simply about working your neck. Repeat 10 times.

    2. Robot Arms

    Lie on your stomach with your forehead resting on a rolled up towel so that your mouth isn’t covered and you have room to breathe. Bend your arms to a 90-degree angle and bring them up to shoulder height so your elbows make a horizontal line with your shoulders. Imagine there’s a walnut in between your shoulder blades. This is your starting position. Lift your arms off of the ground. Initiate the lift from the muscles around your shoulder blades and crush the imaginary walnut. Repeat 10 times.
    Once you’ve mastered the two exercises above, try one of these two variations.

    3. Robot Arms and Head Hover combo

    This exercise combines the head hover with the robot arm exercise. Start on your stomach and perform the head hover described in exercise one. Then, while holding your head up, perform one repetition of the robot arms. Lower your arms and head back to the ground. This is one rep. Repeat 10 times.

    4. Head Hover with Band

    This is an advanced version of the “head hover” exercise. Make sure you’ve mastered the original before you try this version. You’ll need a theraband for this exercise.

    Lie on your stomach with your forehead resting on the floor and the theraband resting on the back of your head. Hold each end of the theraband with your hands. Have slight resistance on the band, but not so much that your neck will have to strain as you do the exercise.

    Start with your head straight, not tilted to one side or the other. Imagine you’re wearing a mask and the imaginary mask is between your face and the floor. Imagine you’re pulling your face away from the mask and push the back of your head into the band, lifting your head off of the floor.

    Note – keep your eyes looking down and the crown of your head reaching forward. Keep your chest, arms and lower body on the floor. This exercise is simply about working your neck. Repeat 10 times.


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    Words from my friend, Mike Boyle

    Mike Boyle reports a correspondence with a friend. Here it is:

    Hi Mike, I hope all is well. I’m writing because I have a friend who’s son is an up and coming hockey player. He is going into his sophomore year of high school. He played as a freshman on the varsity team. He’s a great young man and is very skilled player. His mom asked me to help them out with what he needs to do to attract colleges. Based on your experience with BU hockey team do you have any suggestions on what colleges are/would be looking for and what if any information we can send to schools on his behalf. If you have any contacts that we could speak with that would be great.
    Thanks for your help!

    Thanks, a question like yours actually merits a thoughtful answer. The process of being “noticed” by schools is simple. Get better, continue to improve. Many parents are under the impression that exposure to coaches and scouts is the problem. In reality, there are millions of dollars a year being spent on finding the best players. Parents want to believe that if they can simply get the right person to see their son or daughter that the process can in some way be expedited.
    They take an adult view. Things like connections and introductions come into play. Highlight films are made, it’s almost like a marketing campaign. However the problem is it is a marketing campaign for an often unfinished and unproven product. The key is to make sure the product (the player) is solid, not that the marketing is in place.

    The point that your friend’s son is at is also the point that the wheels usually fall off. Right now your friends son is a good player on an average team.
    The question is “what’s the next step”?
    For many parents the next step is the fatal mistake of the “summer exposure tour”. This usually involves getting sucked into every invitation only, super select camp or tournament they can find. In this case a young kid with potential is taken off the fast track and his development is stalled as he searches for exposure. The truth is the summer is the time to get off the ice and train to get better. The only kids who are getting scholarship offers as sophomores are the few exceptions to the rule. If this kid was one he would already know. The key now is to keep the nose to the grindstone and continue to get better both from a hockey perspective and a physical perspective.

    The vast majority of players going into college are not 18 year old high school graduates but, twenty year olds with 2 years of junior hockey under their belt. The road to a scholarship is a long slow grind. I wrote an article called

    Training is Like Farming

    This is an excerpt

    I think I remember Stephen Covey in his book Seven Habits of Highly Effective People making reference to what he called “the law of the farm”. The reference was meant to show that most of the truly good things in life take time and can’t be forced. Covey described the process of farming and alluded to how it requires patience and diligence to grow crops properly. In addition farming requires belief in the system. The farmer must believe that all the hard work will yield an eventual long-term result.

    The concept has always stuck with me. The process of developing an athlete at any age is much like farming or, like planting a lawn. There are no immediate results just as there are no immediate results from farming. The process requires even more patience. First, the seeds must be planted. Then fertilizer (nutrition) and water must be applied consistently. Only the correct amounts cause proper growth. Overfeeding can cause problems, as can under-feeding. If I sit and wait for my lawn to sprout, I feel many of the same frustrations of the parent. When will I see results? How come nothing is happening? All this work and nothing. The key is to not quit.
    Have faith in the process. Continue to add water and wait. Farming and athlete development are eerily similar. Years may pass with no real notice. Suddenly coaches begin to call. Your reaction might be “it’ s about time someone noticed”. Much like the first blades of grass poking through the ground, you begin to see success. You begin to experience positive feedback.
    When my friends or clients talk to me about their frustration with the process I always bring up the farm analogy. We live in a world obsessed with quick fixes and instant results. This is why the farm analogy can be both informative and comforting. Development must be approached over a period of weeks and months, not days. The reality is that there is no quick fix, no easy way, no magic plan, no secret formula. There is only the law of the farm. You will reap what you sow. In reality you will reap what you sow and care for. If you are consistent and diligent you will eventually see results of “The law of the farm”:

    Plant the seeds

    Feed and water properly

    Wait for results, they will happen, not in days but in weeks and months.

    Bottom line. Get him involved in a good strength program. Avoid the “go to another tournament or camp every weekend of the summer to get seen” thing and work on getting better. Slow and steady wins the race. Most parents lose it right at the wrong time and run of in the wrong direction. Tell them not ask anyone for advice who hasn’t developed 100’s of college players. I have. As I said, slow and steady wins the race.

    Mike Boyle

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