Sunday, December 1, 2013

10 Things I Learned This Semester:

1) Interculturalism:

(Source: besolidary.blogspot.com)

I took this course as a replacement for Food Chemistry, but I think it was a good choice, besides not having a midterm or a final exam. It really gave me a new tool that I have often ignored: how to look at things with an intercultural lens. What is “interculturalism” (compared to… “multiculturalism”)? Well, for starters, interculturalism is much more interactive. Here’s an analogy I have used for myself to make sense of things. Consider food: multiculturalism is like having a wide variety of ingredients from different ethnic backgrounds. Interculturalism would be putting them together to create something new. The 3 points we usually stick to include: 1) connecting across cultures; 2) promoting mutual learning; and 3) creating something new. Personally, I’ve always been culturally insensitive because I would do what is efficient or effective, but taking that extra time to respect someone’s traditions, customs, or beliefs really is something I should try, instead of steamrolling people with my ideas and concepts, even though it may be in fact more efficient or effective. And wow… it’s definitely not easy. The assimilation approach seems the most effective, but by connecting with people through their cultural beliefs is really something else. It’s not easy… but I’m trying. After all, I do believe in humanism.

2) Resistance Training makes a difference:

(Shameless plug: Fortius Sport & Health)
I started a more structured program back at the very end of July and documented all my training until now. I gave myself specific training blocks, and tried modelling things from what I was learning, as I was studying for the NSCA CSCS exam. I began with doing my best to increase my base strength, then translating it to a power phase, which took me right into Pan Am Championships. The idea was to build up as high of a strength base as you can, then transfer the gains to power training (i.e. training at high speed). Just for those who don’t know, “Power lifting” still refers to strength training, more or less, with the 3 basic lifts being the squat, deadlift, and the bench press. Lifting large amount of weight will be pretty slow, so strength will definitely increase. Training for power would mean doing Olympic lifting (i.e. cleans, jerks, snatches), although I really only did hang and power cleans, as my shoulder mobility is not at the level it needs to be for overhead lifts yet.

The results of about 3 months of weight training were enormous, and I plan to keep it in my programming, although I will always be modifying based on the information that comes my way. I’m still learning about it myself, and I hope to be a good strength coach one day. However, I’ve been fortunate to learn from a lot of people, including Mike Dahl, the CSC Manitoba Exercise Physiologist who is working with our National Team. Additionally, a big thanks goes to Dan Adams, who is running the UBC Thunderbird Strength and Conditioning Club. I actually would have never learned all this stuff (including how to deadlift haha) if I never met him in my lab last year. He has also recommended Molly O’Brien, a strength coach at Fortius Sport & Health, who I am currently working with! After just the first session, I’m hooked and I will do my best to maximize my time with her.

For those players who want to start weight training, but aren’t too sure where to start, just contact me and I will do my best to give you some ideas (including referrals, if you’re really serious). It’s a very individual thing, so I can’t give a “cookie cutter” approach to everyone. There is a lot of information on the internet, but it can be overwhelming. I don’t recommend you trying to learn off the internet, unless this is part of your field of study. Even I know that I need proper coaching, so I will get a second opinion on my technique whenever I can. Lastly, look for a “Strength Coach” or “Strength and Conditioning Specialist”. Nothing against ‘personal trainers’, but I think ‘strength coach’ is much more athlete specific. And it sounds cooler lol.

3) Nutrition is more messed up than I thought it was.

(Source: tsh.to)
Maybe ‘messed up’ is not the word I’m looking for… nutrition is just very controversial. I personally think it’s more due to the insane amount of individual differences that occur. Going through some schooling in Nutrition has been educational, but learning from the web also expands on that knowledge, at many times, challenging the school of thought taught in most institutions. A huge example is that we learned that coconut oil is a long-chain fatty acid in school, where most sources site it as a medium-chain fatty acid. You might not think that this is a big deal, but medium-chain fatty acids are supposed to be okay for you (health-wise) as they get processed as an energy source without having to turn into chylomicrons, which end up contributing to cholesterol levels. Long-chain ones are processed differently. As this is kind of getting too complicated for me to speak about without consulting further sources, the definition of long vs medium chain is based on the number of Carbon molecules in the fatty acid. Coconut oil has 12, but some define medium chain as 12 or less, while some define long chain as 12 or more. So it is actually based on whether 12-Carbon fatty acids are considered long or medium chain, and it cascades into either coconut oil being good or bad for you. This is only one of the examples I’ve been through. Additionally, the DRIs are actually based largely on expert opinion, which isn’t very high on the “evidence pyramid”… so what should we do?

I think nutrition is a valuable tool for considering that you can be right as much as you can be wrong. There is nothing wrong with acting on your body of knowledge, but you should understand that some things may or may not be correct, and if you’re flexible to adapt, I think you will come closer and closer to the truth. For example, I can argue low fat or low carb diets, but it depends on many factors. If we simplify, it is easy to overlook things. Nutrition is definitely not simple, and because of that, I cannot dwell in it as much as I’d like to. Perhaps I may specialize in something like, sports nutrition in the future, but I cannot apply that to normal people, people with disease, or people trying to lose weight. It’s much like exercising to build big muscles, building strength, or just for endurance/cardio work. The sets, reps, intensity, volume, and rest intervals will all change. However, I think it’s even more complicated with nutrition… because you can have similar effects with different protocols (i.e. weight loss via low carb vs. low fat vs. high fat vs. high protein vs. fasting… etc etc etc). Restricting certain foods also changes certain things and it becomes a huge flaming ball of complicatedness that I will stop talking about right now. Yikes… much respect to dieticians!

4) The best thing that contributes to recovery is… sleep

(Source: athlete2-0.com)
Coming back for the week in between Pan Am Champs and USA International was a good thing. Not only that I had to make up a midterm, I had the chance to go to the Canadian Sport Institute (Pacific)’s Athlete Advance. It was a free event for athletes, hosted at Fortius Sport & Health, which included many guest speakers. Basically it was an all-day conference with different speakers and you could choose which speakers you want to attend. The keynote speaker was John Underwood, who does the Human Performance Project in the USA. His work is mainly in recovery, and I had the fortune of asking a few questions at the end. As I don’t want to make this excruciatingly long (which I often do), the BEST thing an athlete can do for recovery is adequate and quality sleep. It’s still the typical 8 hours, but I’m sure there are individual differences. However, he brought up a few interesting points to sleep quality, such as the effect of ‘blue light’ and maximizing REM sleep.

“Blue light” is generally emitted from our electronic devices and the effect is compounded when we use those devices in the dark (i.e. phone before bed). I’m guilty of using my phone before I go to sleep, and there have been times it seemed to have made me sleep later than I wanted to. If you don’t have this problem, then just skip to the next paragraph. He recommended the apps ‘F. Lux’ (Apple/PC), or ‘Twilight’ (Android). These apps will emit a ‘pink light’ instead, effectively reducing that blue light glow which is supposedly something that can keep you awake. I have used ‘Twilight’ and it seems to be quite effective. As it’s a free app, it wouldn't hurt to try it out.

Improving REM sleep can vary depending on many factors. However, some suggestions were to sleep before midnight, which should make sense for most people. I personally sleep around 10pm and wake up around 6am, but maybe I’m getting old :P However, I did think about it and generally, nothing productive comes out of anything done that late at night anyway :P Regardless, I think you are supposed to get the greatest bout of REM sleep if you sleep early enough, which supposedly boosts recovery, helps memory, etc… (I really need to do some more research here). As sleep greatly affects recovery, sometimes you can sabotage your next training session without enough sleep. This idea is taken more from the ‘central governor’ theory that the Central Nervous System runs everything, and heavy training leads to neural fatigue, which is a delay in processing of the CNS. Proper sleep helps to improve recovery from neural fatigue, and improper sleep habits will sabotage recovery, hence training with neural fatigue. The idea here is that when you aren’t recovered fully and training, the gains from training may be so low that it’s better not to train at all, because you would be sabotaging future training sessions.

I think it’s an interesting concept, but perhaps it may be a bit too extreme and I have yet to come across enough evidence that supports these theories. The concept it pretty solid, as I do notice neural fatigue, which can occur if you do heavy lifts, but what about post-activation potentiation? PAP means recruiting more motor units with a heavy strength exercise so that they can be used in training/performance later on. I suppose there will be incredible individual differences based on genetics, training age, etc, but I don’t want to discount those who may train more often than I would. However, I do believe having undulating microcycles, so a heavy day should be followed by a light or rest day, then to a medium day, then maybe back up again. Especially with older athletes, I find we can keep up with the young guys, but it’s the recovery that gets us in the end. Over the course of a week, we may need more rest, so being efficient in training is definitely a must. I will mull over these ideas for a little bit, and I think we need to return here at a later date. Feedback is definitely welcome!

5) Eminem really is “Rap God”…

Of course this can be debated indefinitely, but I thoroughly enjoyed his MMLP2 album which I purchased on the first day it came out at Target in the USA, as the Deluxe Edition was a bit cheaper than it was here in Canada. I’ve always been a fan, and ironically my very first CD was the MMLP1. Yes, my dad listened to it, but I can say he didn’t quite understand it. I mean, there was quite some intricate word play and stories and skits that were carried over a few albums that you would have missed if you didn’t listen to the others. For example, “Bad Guy” on MMLP2 is actually a sequel song to “Stan” on MMLP1. There were a few references back to the old album on the new one, so I thoroughly enjoyed this album. Unfortunately, “Rap God” doesn’t seem to be 6077 words long, as there are some claims on the internet. I didn’t realize it until I read someone else post about it, and after I copied and pasted the lyrics into Word, I found out it was only about 1500 words. If you calculate the fastest part in the song where he raps 97 words in 15 seconds, just multiply it by 4 (i.e. 388 words/minute) and multiply it again by 6 (i.e. 2328 words/ 6 minutes), and you would realize that 6077 words in 6 minutes would be a slew of gibberish… maybe they meant 6077 characters?

Regardless, my favourite tracks are “The Monster” (second thoughts after radio is butchering it like crazy), “Legacy”, “Bad Guy” (because it connects to “Stan”), “Rap God”, “Beautiful Pain” (Deluxe Edition), and “Headlights”, which is a track where he apologizes to his mother, after all these years. If you have listened to all his albums of the past, it really is a special track.


6) Anecdotal evidence can still give an edge if you are an outlier.

(Skinetex.com)
I don’t really like the name of this title, because it’s basically saying… if you’re lucky, you can win. It doesn't really explain anything, but hopefully you might read on for clarification. I used to always look toward evidence, and I still do, but over time, I've heard different thoughts about things and I have changed my mind… slightly. Consider foam rolling… there isn't actually very much scientific evidence to prove whether it works or not, but anecdotally, it is advertised and used everywhere. Even I have tried it and I still use it when I can. There are results. Taping is another example, where the research isn't finding evidence for it, but perhaps it may be in the scope of the research question. I've seen a study published which says it is not effective. Of course it’s not effective… the test was on healthy people! I would like to think it’s more for some kind of pain relief, so if you’re otherwise healthy, it’s like popping a pain killer and seeing whether it works or not (as an analogy, because pain killers DO work regardless). How it works is another question, but anecdotally, I would support kinesio tape for minor injuries to get back into the game. However, I would not support it as a long-term treatment, because I would believe in a better rehabilitation program to fix the problem. But if you’re in the middle of a tournament, rehab isn’t really going to help, so I would much advocate having some kinesio tape in your bag for such emergencies. Support  a local brand: Skinetex.


(Source: galter.northwestern.edu)
Regardless, if you were an athlete, and something gave you a 0.5% performance increase, would you do it? Yes, probably, you would want to do anything to give you the edge on your opponents. Sometimes, research is done where there is no “significant effect”, but would you be willing to try it anyway? Even placebo can be performance enhancing at times, and I would much rather have it help than not. The caution here though is that there is always a cost:benefit ratio to these things. The costs typically include time and money, both which are very valuable to an athlete, with the benefits usually being quite minuscule. What I would recommend is that athletes can try things that won’t significantly hurt them. Don’t waste significant amounts of money on things (more expensive doesn't mean anything sometimes), and make sure you consult an expert especially if you will be consuming it (i.e. new drug, supplement, etc.). Do some research and see if there are other athletes or teams that may find the product useful, and consider where they stand in terms of whether they endorse it because of sponsorship, money, etc. Personally, I would consult the literature and see if the research is justified (i.e. testing athletes vs. normal people), and see if the effect of what you intend to use the product for is used in the research (i.e. my example of testing kinesio tape on healthy people is… well, not very fair. Neither is using it on healthy people to assess performance. The best experiment would be to test on injured people and test whether it would help them compared to if they had no tape, or another conventional treatment e.g. pain killers. Then measure performance). Lastly, if this boggles your mind and it’s taking too much time (time is precious!), then at least have a trusted expert you can refer to for a second opinion.

Personally, I use protein, creatine, and caffeine (sparingly), and I do work with rollers and tennis & lacrosse balls for myofascial and trigger point release. I am trying out some of the Kelly Starrett’s mobilityWOD stuff from his book “Becoming a Supple Leopard”, but I’m still not fully convinced about everything (e.g. voodoo floss). We’ll give it some more time and I will update again in the future.

7) Flying from Seattle is a good idea

There are some conditions to this “idea”:
i)                    You have to live close enough to the border
ii)                   You have to have a car
iii)                 You have to have time to drive (round trip)
iv)                 You have to have patience for border crossing by land

I probably saved $800 from the difference in plane tickets, flying from Seattle to Santo Domingo, and again to Orlando, instead of flying through from Vancouver. This price difference doesn't include several things, but we’ll calculate it so you can see the difference. Vancouver to Santo Domingo would have cost about $1200 for airfare, plus $100 for a hotel room for the night because there weren’t any flights until the next morning. That would make it about $1300 and missing another day of class. Flying through Seattle would cost only $800, and I would have a chance to drive back late at night (which I did). It cost $50 for gas (roundtrip) and $75 for airport parking. We can add another $25 for meals within the 5 hours of driving, so that would still only be $950, saving me $350. Technically, I saved more time by driving because I didn’t have to wait overnight (hence, didn’t skip class).

Orlando was similar, although I was told that flights were cheaper after I had checked. However, to be fair, we should look at the price of equivalent flights. I flew United specifically because I get Star Alliance points, so flying from Vancouver on American Airlines wouldn’t really be an equivalent. I would have to fly Air Canada, and we all know they are expensive. Air Canada was charging $800 to Orlando, over 2 days, while I could get there from Seattle on a red-eye, with a connection in Houston for $400. Parking was $50 this time, as I had a membership with the Aeroparking, and gas was about $50 again. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to shop in Orlando, but I had some time on Remembrance/Veteran’s Day driving back, so I was able to get my New Balance MX20v3’s! They’re like Nike Free’s except way cheaper… Regardless, I saved another $300, for a total of roughly $750 from both trips, considering I was able to fly back home for a week to write a midterm. So, if you are considering flying from the US instead, it’s probably not such a bad idea!

8) I’ve played with 8 different partners… and I didn’t do too bad.

(with Michelle Li)
Since August, the beginning of my previous mesocycle, I have played in 7 tournaments, although one didn’t really count (why, because I won singles :P). This included the KHAS tournament (BC Circuit), Quebec Elite Series (National), Chinese Cup (non-sanctioned BC tournament), Pan Am Champs – Team (Internationa), Pan Am Champs – Individual (International), USA International, and the recent British Columbia Elite Series (National). So, I ended up playing MD with a different partner for each tournament I entered, and XD with 3 different partners, for a total of 8 different partners!

(with Phyllis Chan)
So, my MD partners include: Rahim Karmali (QC ES), Jacky Ruan (Chinese Cup), Derrick Ng (PAC-Team), Hendry Winarto (USA IC), and Philippe Charron (BC ES) with a total of 3 second place finishes, 1 semi-final finish, and technically a first place finish in the team event. However, XD was even better, with Phyllis Chan (Chinese Cup), Michelle Li (USA IC), and Alex Bruce (QC ES, PAC-Team/Individual, & BC ES)… being undefeated… O__O Thank you, ladies! And yes, it’s been a very fortunate semester for me, and I would like to thank everyone I played with, but special thanks goes to Alex Bruce, because she is my official partner! What can I say… it’s complicated ;)

(with Hendry Winarto)
However, let’s take some lessons from this experience:
  • If you play with a partner, and your partner misses the shot… you MUST get the shot. Regardless whether it was their shot or yours, if they don’t get it and you don’t either, you lose. You can discuss whose shot it was after the rally.
  • I find that weaker player often tries to adapt to the stronger player’s game. It would make much more sense for the stronger player to try to adapt to the weaker player’s game. Always let people do what they are comfortable with, and when in doubt, refer to the first point :P
  • Always lead by example. If you play 100% and play with confidence, your partner will follow. Don’t wait for someone to take charge, just do it.


(with Jacky Ruan)
 9) Physical Literacy and Badminton Players

(with Alex Bruce: We're totally physically literate!)
I did a casual survey with 58 badminton players at the Pan American Championships, as I had to do a project about ‘Physical Literacy’ for one of my courses. Physical Literacy (PL) is basically developing fundamental movement skills in children, such as throwing, kicking, jumping, running, and other movement skills that we would want our kids to develop. Early sport specialization in some sports has been criticized for not developing certain motor skills, so kids may be deficient in other abilities. This may put them at risk for injury later on, as their development is highly skewed toward a single sport. For example, badminton players will never do any kicking. Learning to kick properly may be important because you have to balance on one foot to kick, and sometimes you use a rotational force to generate power (think roundhouse kick vs. front kick). Having that ability to kick might mean being able to handle those rotational forces at the knee better, thus maybe preventing an injury from occurring just because your knees are simple strong enough to handle those forces… hypothetically. Anyway, I will just present my findings, as I’ve typed it out for my project anyway.

In a casual survey done at an international badminton tournament with 58 badminton players from 11 countries, we found that most athletes had participated in an average of 6.5 different sports. With an average of about 8 years of International tournament experience, these athletes have done multiple physical activities to get to their highest level of competition in their respective countries. At least 6 Olympians and 15 Pan American Games medalists were surveyed, with many other players currently in pursuit of the 2016 Rio Olympics.

-          Limitations in the survey were language barriers and the need for translation. When asked the number of sports or miscellaneous physical activities participated, including dance and martial arts, the cap was at 10 sports (i.e. 10+) and some may not have included ‘badminton’ as a sport because “other” sports were specified. Additionally, the specification whether a sport or physical activity counted was whether the athlete had a solid understanding of the game, including rules. However, inter-rater variability was low, as a single interviewer did all surveys.

-          The main conclusion from the survey is that there is likely evidence that correlates those in high performance sport (badminton, to be specific) with the participation of multiple sports and physical activities in their childhood, indicating a high level of physical literacy. Additionally, of all the athletes surveyed, we did not find any athlete that only specialized in badminton.

-          Raw data:
-          Countries (number of players): Canada (14), Brazil (9), Peru (10), Jamaica (2), USA (8), Mexico (3), Dominican Republic (2), Guatemala (5), Trinidad & Tobago (3), Cuba (1), South Korea (1)
-          Males = 34; Females 24
-          Range of International Experience: 2-20 years
-          Range of Multiple Physical Activities: 2-10+
-          Mean Years of International Experience = 8.19
-          Mean Years of Multiple Physical Activities = 6.59 (where 10+ = 10)
-          Miscellaneous: Players volunteered their information and the information was gathered by the same person. Players were also told that their information would only be used for a “school project”. Each survey took about 2-3 minutes to complete.

-          Original Survey Questions:
-          Observational Data: Country represented; Gender (based on tournament entry & events entered)
-          1) How do you identify yourself ethnically/culturally/etc.?
-          2) How many years of international badminton competition experience do you have (including junior years)?
-          3) How many different sports or physical activities (including dance, martial arts, etc.) have you done previously?
-          4) Which physical activity or sport would you be doing if not for badminton?
-          Top 3 Answers: Tennis (14); Soccer (10); Volleyball (9)
-          5) (Interculturalism Question) What is your favourite country traveled to for badminton and why (not related to badminton tournament experience)?
-          27 different countries were mentioned
-          Top reasons: Culture, Lifestyle, & Atmosphere

(Source: phecanada.ca)
10) I want to keep playing… I want a shot at Rio.

Well, the Rio 2016 Olympics would be the final goal. The obvious progression would be to win a gold medal at the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto, and if the qualifying period is going well, then I would continue on until the 2016 Olympics. I don’t want to kill myself and go broke trying to qualify, because I want to qualify on my own terms. If I really am the best in my event, I should be able to qualify without having to break my bank account, compared to those who might be able to afford traveling constantly for the year. I don’t want to enforce the stereotype; it’s not worth it if that’s the case. I don’t want to “pay my way” to qualify for the Olympics, unless it is going toward my training. Here is a recap of what it takes to qualify for badminton.

The soonest I can start preparing is January. However, I may opt to take a couple more courses and continue volunteering as a Kinesiologist. It will keep me busy, and keep me on track. I want to go into rehabilitation sciences, so I might as well continue to learn a bit… in the end, I would love to be an expert in rehabilitation in athletes (primarily), in strength and conditioning (S&C), and in coaching both badminton and S&C. It seems like an awful lot, but I’m hoping these 10 000 hours can overlap. I’m probably close to my 10 000 hours of badminton, so adding necessary coaching cues, strategies, sport psychology, and programming should not be another 10 000 hours. These can transfer into S&C coaching as well, where I learn better technique and different programming strategies for different athletes. Keeping myself and my teammates healthy is key, so rehabilitation and “pre-hab” (preventative rehabilitation) can be worked into programs, which will add to rehabilitation hours. This can double up into corrective and mobility exercises for S&C as well, so I’m “double-dipping” everywhere. At least I have a plan. Nutrition-wise, I will see what becomes of it. As mentioned previously, nutrition is a very broad scope in itself, and sometimes it will come into play. However, I cannot link into my programming as much as the others, but I will keep an open mind. I will also leave an open mind for psychology (i.e. decision making, motivation, etc).

With all that said, I’m hoping that everything I do from above can lead to improvements in my game, directly and indirectly. This time around, I don’t really have a solid coach, and I don’t really have a solid program… yet. Some athletes might not like this, but I kind of welcome it, because I will be responsible for my progress, and I cannot blame anyone else if things don’t work out. However, I really need to plan things out and securing funding will be a very necessary step. Kevin Jagger, the “Long TrackLong Shot” of speedskating, has the concept of ‘funding as fuel’, meaning that no matter how far you go, it is based on how much money you have. Once that supply runs out, your progress pretty much stops, so funding is like the fuel that gets you where you need to go. I am not as fortunate as some other players, as my brother is also making an attempt for Rio 2016. Our family helps where they can, but funds are usually divided in half (if any), and we pretty much need to make our own funding, in addition to paying our own living expenses. Very likely I will have to find ways to fundraise and acquire sponsorship, but I will look at different options in raising money as either a team with my partner, or even with my brother, as a family kinda thing. I’m hoping with my new found abilities and networks, I might have a chance to have enough “fuel” until 2016.

Everything is still just an idea in my head at the moment, so be sure to stay up to date for details. If I’m going to choose this path, I’m going to go all in!

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