Saturday, 26 March 2011

Orienteering choking

After having read this New Yorker's article I got interested about choking.
Orienteering is a sport where every step that we make should be towards the next control. In high level races I have this tendency to alter my navigation routines ending in worse-than-expected performances. Understanding it, may help me avoiding it.

Choking in sport is considered to be a sub-optimal performance under stressful conditions (Lewis & Linder, 1997) and has been defined as ‘‘the occurrence of inferior performance despite striving and incentives for superior performance’’ (Baumeister & Showers, 1986, p. 361). Many examples may be found here. Further information here.

There are 2 theories for it:
- distraction theories (Carver & Scheier, 1981), which maintain that under stressful conditions, the athlete’s attentional capacity will be overloaded by task-irrelevant stimuli such as worry and self-doubt, resulting in performance decrements (I'm one of the victims...).

- self-focus theories (Baumeister, 1984), which include the conscious processing hypothesis (Masters, 1992), and are collectively termed ‘‘explicit monitoring’’(Beilock & Carr, 2001). They state that performance deteriorates as a consequence of the athlete reinvesting explicit technical information and consciously monitoring and/or controlling a skill that normally would be performed automatically.

I found it curious that:
- Jones et al. (2007)- found that those who excel under pressure are able to maintain a balanced sport/life perspective, despite being intensely committed to their sport;

- Fletcher et al. (2006)- established that a lack of mental toughness will encourage an athlete to perceive the situational demands as beyond their capability a process reflected within choking.

- mental toughness consists of several attributes, including an unshakeable belief, an ability to remain fully focused, and a capacity to switch sport focus on and off (Jones et al.,2002, 2007)

- ‘‘these people who have perspective and say... I don’t really care, [can] shrug off things really well. I think this is a characteristic of mental toughness... and I think it’s a big thing [missing] in choking’’.

- [the choke] is extremely difficult to deal with and hence, nine times out of ten, performance will stay bad and they will be annihilated... they won’t regain performance... however, I think there are some individual differences and mental toughness issues going on, when some people can regain their performance.

- (in the photo, the greatest all-the-time choke by Novotna's wimbledon final loss after a 4-1 40-30, described here).

Apart from choking, even if I've been only training once a day this season, today I did one of the best long intervals of my life at 6x1000+600+600. Good times without suffering is a great feeling. Can't wait for competing again after this training period.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Great Orienteering footage...

...about the I Orienteering Meeting of Gouveia. Credits by RTP (national TV) - uncheck "HD" if you have problems watching:

1º Meeting de Orientação de Gouveia from WEDDO DOIS on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Arraiolos International Meeting (WRE)

And so the most important portuguese orienteering week has ended by the best way. Gafanhori has provided all the present orienteerers with a great stage.
My performance there was conditioned by the open wound on my knee, made at the POM.

Middle distance, 7.2k (290m), 34'23 - I was happy once, after a disappoiting POM, I was able to do a regular race. The knee hurted in the 1st part but it was ok in the 2nd part where there wasn't vegetation.

Long distance, 18.3k (525m), mp - The greens of the 1st controls hurted me too much. After passing the river to the 3rd it got worse and I decided to just finish the race at a slower pace. By the 17th, my right buttock also started to hurt because of the compensated stride and I decided to go directly to the finish area. It was a great course and I was really sad for not having been able to do it properly. I hope that someday I'll be able to try this course again.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A different afternoon

As an athlete you've probably heard lots of empiric theories about performance.
This afternoon, sick of studying, I've spent the afternoon discussing this theme with a thriathlete friend at the Faculty's library. Note that we both don't have education in the area (so our opinions are limited). We're just curious about it and so I share some thoughts:

I've always heard that training in a fasted state would improve your lipolysis capabilities. It's an empiric idea among portuguese long distance runners. Actually, we've found here that:
- exercise-induced intramyocellular lipid breakdown was enhanced in type I fibers (P<0.05)
- increased the exercise intensity corresponding to the maximal rate of fat oxidation (+21%) more than did CHO (+6%) (P<0.05)
- prevented the development of exercise-induced drop in blood glucose concentration (P<0.05)

About supplements, we had 2 opposite opinions. By what I've seen, heard and read, I think that we don't need any:
- protein supplement - it's pure math. if an athlete needs 1.4-2 g/kg/day, this goal is easily reachable by 2 beefs (90gr of protein each) or 1cup of beans (177gr).. and we eat much more than that. About the timing, it isn't that odd to eat normal food (non-powder food, i mean) right after the training sessions.
- electrolyte supplements - well explained here

About heart rate training .
I'm trained by personal Rate of perceived exertion (RPE); he trains by heart rate (HR).
About HR, considering that:
- dehydration can increase heart rate by up to 7.5%;
- heat and humidity can increase heart rate by around 10 beats/min;
- altitude can increase heart rate by 10-20%, even with acclimatisation
- the HR varies along a training session and it's peak is delayed during intervals.
- the time between two consecutive beats can vary considerably in normal athletes.

... is it still as precise as claimed? I used to train by HR with my last coach and I felt limited once I like to vary the pace during a training session by my will.

About RPE (I don't have any scale, it's subjective)...'s applications in the antecipatory model may be geniously found here...

... it's accurate

... may prevent overtraining
... and the preferred associative vs. the dissociative model fits in (the "brain training" theories).

After all, I think that the human will to manipulate our million-year tuned engine had no significant results. Rather than manipulating it, we should focus on understanding it.

To my page/day statistics it was a lost afternoon; to me, it was an enjoyable afternoon.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Portugal O'Meeting 2011

Nice organization by GD4C. For me, it's an honor to have all the best athletes and friends in Portugal, enjoying these days.

DAY1, Long distance, 14.6k (665m), 1'13'37 - I've noticed that when I'm excited with a race I have this massive tendency to start running without looking at the map (I'm getting better at controling this feeling but I'm far from where I want to be).
This map was easy and it worked for a while, until the 4th where I did a huge mistake. I was progressively caught by T.Aires and by then I started focusing on my navigation (nothing changed, just the fact of having someone catching up made my navigation better - and this made me think about it at the end of the race).

DAY2, Middle distance, 6.5k (285m), 42'27 - One of the worst performances I can recall. If careless orienteering would work in some parts of the day before, it ended with a mess in this day. Furthermore I fell and hurted my knee badly.

DAY3, Middle distance, 6.1k (220m), 39'42 - I was conditioned by my knee. Hurted at the beginning but I was soon able to forget about it. The navigation was better but my running was conditioned.

DAY4, Long distance, 15.1k (340m), 1'20'32 - I really liked this race. Some controls were too easy, indeed. I was happy with my navigation (after 3 days, it was enough!) but, once more, I was also physically conditioned.

- I'm feeling physically better than what I was expecting. The lack of athletic competitions lately doesn't give me an exact measure but I'll be able to check it in the next weeks.
- I did some top splits... so I have an idea of what a top performance is by recalling those moments. I have to focus more on the navigation and avoid this big mistakes.

...more to come, right this weekend in Arraiolos!