Sunday, 11 September 2011

Caffeine Intake and Sport

After the weekend where I was working with athletes there were a few questions on caffeine; so I thought it might be useful to do a quick recap:

The performance boost you get is the effect caffeine has on your central nervous system- therefore you become more alert, you react faster and you don’t think you are working as hard.
It will not cause dehydration (in moderate doses)- you will not need additional fluid to counteract the caffeine intake.
It affects everyone differently- Try it out in training sessions first. If you feel, jittery and nervous try reducing the intake, you don’t want it to impact on your performance, and try it before a race unknown.
You can develop a tolerance- Everyone has a different reaction to caffeine and how your body responds, but your body will adapt to the effects that happens and therefore the reaction you get will be much lower over time. You might want to reduce your intake in the couple of weeks before the race for the race day intake to take its affect.
Timing- Again this is something you would want to try during a training session first- and again it will be different for everyone. It will roughly take 60mins to have an effect so there is no point in taking it immediately before a race.
It’s not going to override the effects of poor training- although it can boost performance you will get more of a benefit from focused training.

It takes about three to six milligrams of caffeine per kilogram of body weight (190-380mg for a 63kg athlete), to notice a benefit for most people. Anything higher you are likely to get side effects.


Expresso 30ml cup- 30-90mg
Coca Cola 33-ml can- 32mg
Tea (Black)- 235ml- 40-120mg
Red Bull- 250ml can -80mg
Filter Coffee-235m cup- 100-200mg

If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to leave a commend!

Friday, 9 September 2011

The Risks of Medication and Nutritional Supplements

Below is a link to an article in The Mail online, about the risks of using nutritional supplements and over the counter medications.  Not only is your chances of competing in major championships jupordised by inadvertant doping offences, but your reputation is forever tarnished, even if you didn't intend to cheat.  Always check your medications (even if they are bought over the counter), and remember that there are alternatives to food supplements (like a healthy nutritions diet).

Friday, 2 September 2011

The Application Form

Following Rachael's post yesterday about putting together a CV, I want to give some pointers on completing application forms.  More and more jobs require completion of an application form rather than a CV.  The same rules apply to application forms for funding, awards and scholarships.

1. Make an effort. If you expect somebody to take the time to read your application, be sure that you put some time and effort into completing it.  Don't just answer a questions with yes or no.  If you don't have a certain experience or quality then please explain.

2. Write in plain English, and not in txt speak.  Application forms are official documents, and shouldn't be written like you are writing to a friend.

3. Don't presume that the person reading the application already knows everything about you.  Even if you do know the person, then you still need to complete the form as if they had never meet you.

4. Complete the form properly.  If you are applying for a job by application, your CV will probably not be read, even if you are given the opportunity to attach a CV.  NEVER put see CV on an application form, and always ensure that the application form covers all the important aspects about you.

5. Be specific and concise.  If you are completing a scholarship application form state exactly what you have achieved.  Only include relevant results (not a life history of every competition that you have ever participated in).  Don't presume that the person reading your application is an expert in our sport, so include levels, divisions, leagues etc, where appropriate.

6. Don't beg.  This is true for both job and scholarship applications.  Don't guilt trip the person by saying that if they don't give you money/a job, you won't be able to do your sport or live any more.  Millions of people participate in sport for the pure pleasure of it, and never expect anybody to pay for their hobby.  Show what you can offer back, and how you can utilise the funding to best effect.  Don't come across as hard done by.

8. Give the person reading the document a reason to offer you an interview/funding/scholarship.  If you leave blanks or omit information, they may have nothing to go on.

7. Proof read the final document before submitting.

It is important to remember that the people that are reviewing your application are putting time, effort and money into reviewing your application.  Please, please, please make an effort if you are serious about your application.

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Preparation for Life at University, Part 2 (Time Management)

In part 2 of our series of advice for adjusting to Life at University we look at some simple time-management tools and how to use them.

Time Wheel
The one that I like to begin with is the time wheel.  This is a simple 24-part pie-chart divided to represent the 24 hours of the day. 

Step 1: Choose a colour to represent each of the main tasks that you do during a typical day (e.g. sleeping, eating, travelling, training, working, lectures, studying, socialising, reading, on internet, other leisure activities, quality relaxation activities).

Step 2: Now think about how you would spend an ideal day and colour complete the circle accordingly.  If you normally need ten hours sleep then fill in ten of the segments with the sleep colour.  If you have five hours of lectures a day then fill in five of the segments in lecture colour.  If training should take up three hours, then fill in three of the segments in that colour…and so on.

Step 3: Now think about how you spent yesterday.  Fill in another wheel based on what you actually did yesterday.  If you spent two hours on the playstation, then fill two segments in the appropriate colour.  This step can be repeated over a number of days.

Step 4: Compare and contrast your idea wheel (Step 2) and your actual wheels (Step 3).  This is a good way to work out where all your time is going.  Is your ideal wheel unrealistic and does that need to be adjusted, or are you spending time doing things that you don’t need to do.  Make a list of the things that you are wasting time on.  Some of the following tools and exercises will help you come up with ways of overcoming procrastination and time wasting.

The Traditional Diary
It sounds obvious, but don’t expect your brain to remember everything. Carry a diary around with you and write down important date including competition dates, meetings, exams, holidays.  This way you can make sure that you don’t miss important appointments or double-book yourself.  It also highlights busy weeks, and when you may need to do a bit of forward-planning and preparation.  Of course your diary doesn’t have to be a traditional paper one.  Electronic diaries work just as good.  Just be sure that everything is in the one place.

The Weekly Planner
This is my favourite tool of all, and each Sunday evening I take 20 minutes to fill in a new one for the week ahead.  If you week is reasonably structured (set lecture and training times), then you don’t need to do a complete new one each week.  Weekly planners both help you to get into a routine (set a plan, see if it works, adjust if appropriate, until you find a schedule that works for you), and organise your week.

When putting together a weekly plan, follow these simple steps:
Step 1: Put in all the immovable appointments (lectures, meetings, group training times).  Step 2: Add the things that you need to do at certain times, but which don’t have to be set (e.g. S&C sessions that you can’t do straight after a heavy training session and which have to be done when the gym is free; optional tutorials).  Don’t forget to add travel time if required.
Step 3: Add the rest of your training sessions at the most appropriate times.
Step 4: Add all other tasks that must be done in the week (e.g. weekly shopping).
Step 5: Add some recovery and relaxation time, and social activities if appropriate.
Step 6: Assign tasks to other blocks of appropriate time (e.g. course work may be assigned to a larger block of time while doing the ironing may be assigned to a smaller block of time.
Step 7: Work out the logistics and make a list of anything you need to pack the night before (e.g. if you are going straight from lectures to training on a day that you won’t have time to have lunch the you will need to pack books, lunch and training kit).

Prioritised to-do Lists
We’ve all done to-do lists at one stage or another and are great for keeping you motivated.  Usually these are simply a list of things that we need or want to get done as a particular stage.  Prioritised to-do lists are a slight adaptation of the traditional list.  They split tasks into urgent and non-urgent tasks, and low and high importance tasks.  This way unimportant tasks don’t get in the way of more crucial ones and everything is done on time.  Similarly lists of tasks can be subdivided into big and small ones.  Big tasks can be done during larger blocks of time, and smaller ones can be done during shorter time periods, or to get a break from larger tasks.

Monthly, termly, or three-month planners are a good way of identifying busy time periods, and making appropriate adjustments.  They differ from diaries in that they only contain half or full day events or tasks, and not every meeting and appointment.

Year planners wall charts work in a similar way, and can be used to plan your training year as well as your academic/work schedule.

In Summary
There are no quick or easy fixes to time management.  The main components are to set goals (what do you want to achieve with your time), and be organised (plan in advance, make lists of what is to be achieved).  Good time management takes practice, and different tools are appropriate for different people.  Pick what suits you best, and adjust as appropriate.  Each tool will take some practice before it is utilised to best effect.  If you are starting a new job, or going to University for the first time, it’s a good idea to get practicing straight away.  Don’t leave it 4 or 5 weeks until you get ‘settled-in’.  Being organised will actually help you get settled in to begin with.

Finally, things don’t always go according to plan.  In fact, they rarely do.  However it’s easier to adjust a plan than to make one up as you go along.  If one of your lectures is cancelled, you can do a task that you had scheduled later that day, or one that you were struggling to fit in later in the week.  Make the most of your time.

Preparation for Life at University, Part 1

As the start of the new university term approaches, we hope to bring you a range of blog articles that will give you some ideas on how to organise your life, get the most out of university life, and help you strike a balance between sport, study and social life.

Having spent most of the past 14 years either studying or working at a University, I am what is known as the eternal student.  This is partially because I’m scared that if I move away from University I’ll have to grow up, but mostly because I have an appreciation of the importance of the university years.  I believe that the university environment can be a perfect one in which to nurture talent and realise your true ability.  Yes exams and assignments are difficult, but it’s only when you go on to a nine-to-five job that you really appreciate how easily you had it.

From my experiences, these are some of the top mistakes students-athletes make while at University:

  1. Drinking too much
  2. Not bothering with their sport in the first year because they want to make new friends,
  3. Training too hard and get injured all the time,
  4. Take a ‘year-out’ of their sport to concentrate on their final year,

I’ve never met a person who said that they wish they’d drank more at university or went out more often.  I’ve met many who whished they’d concentrated more on their sport and studies.

Be Sensible about your Training Schedule
Many athletes train too much when at University.  If you have the opportunity to train with a good group or team, it’s likely that you can access sessions twice a day, 6 or 7 days a week.  Be careful though.  This intensity may be appropriate for a 3rd or 4th year student who has gradually been increasing their training over the years.  It is not appropriate for a first year who has previously only trained 3 or 4 times a week.  Be sensible.  Speak to your coach about what you have done up to that point.  Don’t feel that you are being soft by not doing all the sessions available to you.

Balance Training Intensity and Social Life
It is inevitable that there will be some late nights during your time at University.  Whether this is a social night out, or an all-nighter to get an assignment finished on time, don’t ‘punish’ yourself by still trying to do high intensity sessions the next day just because they have been scheduled.  You are much more likely to get injured or pick up a cold if you train when you are tired and dehydrated (i.e. hungover).  Plan ahead.  If you have an important session, don’t drink the night before and come home early, or adjust the training plan so that you have a light session the day after a night out.  If you have more nights out than you do high intensity sessions in a week, then you probably going out too much.

Get Plenty of Sleep
Don’t underestimate the value of sleep.  When you are trying to pack you life with study, training and partying, it’s easy to try and burn the candle at both ends.  Sleep is very important though.  Set aside one evening a week when you go to bed early and catch up on sleep lost during the rest of the week.  This is far more effective than having a lie-in.

Eat Sensibly
The traditional student diet of pizza and curry is probably not the best for a high-performance sports person.  Be sensible, plan ahead and eat as much fresh fruit and vegetable as possible.  Over the coming weeks we will suggest some healthy, cheap, easy-to-prepare meals and snacks that you can use.

It may sound like a bit of a contradiction, but enjoy your student days.  You don’t have to drink every night to make the most of the student experience.  Be clear about what you want from your days at university.  With a little bit of organisation, everything else will fall into place.

In part 2 we'll take a look at basic time management and planning strategies.  Fell free to post your own advice and time saving tips in the comments section at the bottom of the post.

Developing your CV

Many athletes need to find work to support their playing career alongside any funding they may receive, and at the moment when competition for jobs is fierce the CV must stand out!

There is no right or wrong way to write a CV, it is a very personal document for each individual and it does take time to get it right.

Athletes need to start to think about developing their CV early so that it’s ready for when they need it, and start to think about the transferrable skills that they have throughout their athletic career.

Transferrable skills are general skills you can use in any job. You can gain these skills from previous work experience, voluntary work, sport, your home life, hobbies and interests. They enable you to be adaptable and flexible.

As well as numeracy, literacy and IT Skills, employers like staff to be experienced in the following skills:

· Problem Solving
· Organising
· Communicating effectively
· Meeting deadlines
· Management and Leadership
· Negotiating
· Motivating people
· Making decisions

If you feel that you need to develop these skills further ideas are:

Work Experience
Short Courses
Develop new interests
Public Speaking
Organising events
Group work/ Team Building

So what is the purpose of a CV?

It acts as a 20 second interview and every word counts! Athletes need to be able to prioritise their experience and skills to provide a good first impression and to be put forward for interviews.

CV’s should demonstrate where a player meets the criteria, what they can add to the organisation, highlight achievements and leave the reader wanting to find out more.

Use achievement verbs to start sentences such as:
Develop, Managed, Established, Accomplished, Exceeded, Promoted
Created, Investigated, Budgeted, Delegated, Reviewed, Analysed, Transformed and Encouraged.

Personal Profile:

2/3 sentences at the start of a CV to describe who and what you are, what experience you have, what unique skills or strengths you possess and a short career goal and or statement about what you can contribute to the company or sector you are applying to work in.

Reverse chronological order
Potential Employers want to know about a players experience and skills above anything else.
Make use of bullet points to break up the text (Prioritise bullet points)
Length should be 2-3 pages
Use Bold, Italics and underlined sparingly to divide sections
Ensure dates, company names and job roles line up
Keep font simple (10 or larger)
Use the justify function
If sending electronically save as a PDF
Try to avoid any gaps in work or education
Set up a sensible email address


Avoid Jargon
Use the past tense
Stick to 2-3 pages
Check spelling, punctuation & grammar
Be positive
Focus on achievement and skills
Check, Check, Check


Use I on a CV
Lie or exaggerate
List everything
Mention mistakes
Include D.O.B or martial status
Include a photo
Fire off a CV without any thought… it takes time