Replace the words "race" by "squash match" and here is some excellent


Issue No. 16
discover why you performed badly training through the pain barrier

In this Issue:

If you've put in a below-average performance in a race recently, these 18 questions could help you find out why:

1. Were you rested enough 48 hours before the race?

2. Were you travel-weary on the day?

3. Did your last meal before the race have enough time to be digested?

4. Did your last meal before the race contain gaseous food - egg, for instance? Did you have your usual warm-up? Did you have a race plan? Was this carried out as planned? If not, why not?

5. Did you taper for this race?

6. If the race was in excess of lOK, did you take in extra carbohydrate for the past 72 hours?

7. If the race was in excess of 10 miles and the temperature above 70 degrees F, did you take on board adequate fluid replacement?

8. Did you feel tired as you lined up for this race in spite of 48 hours rest? To what did you attribute this tiredness?

9. Have you suffered recently from pins-and- needles in the feet and hands, or numbness in the feet? If so, you should have a comprehensive blood test for iron and magnesium deficiency.

10. Have you suffered from frequent infections during the past six weeks? If so, you may have a zinc deficiency in your diet.

11. Did you practise visualisation for this race? This involves being alone in a state of quietness, and first, watching yourself running in the race, then second, being IN the race and actually taking in everything involved, such as crowd noise, sound of running feet, and carrying out your plan.

12. What was your mental state before this race? Being nervous is a natural reaction to being tested, both physically and mentally. Was your nervousness excessive? If so, did you try to think positively by telling yourself what your race plan was and firmly establishing in your mind how you were going to carry it out?

13. Did you feel before this race that your training was adequate both in quantity and quality? If not, what facet of it do you think was lacking? If you had some misgivings, and if coached, did you express your doubts to your coach? If not, why not?

14. Do you think your coach understands the needs of your event? Do you think he or she understands your capabilities and goals? Are you over-trained or under-trained?

15. Have you in your own mind a clear idea of what is required in training for your event? Do you know the physiological breakdown of your event - in other words, what is aerobic and what is anaerobic, what aerobic training involves and what anaerobic?

16. Are you over-stressed in your non-athletics life? You may work full-time - do you consider this a hindrance to your athletics progress? If so, is it possible for you to become a full-time athlete or a half-time worker?

17. If you feel over-stressed other than by a full- time job, can you pinpoint stresses and take active steps to reduce them?

18. Most athletes have a bee in their bonnet about some aspect of their preparation - it may be more speed, more mileage, or even less of both. Have you such a bee in your own bonnet? If so, have you discussed it with your coach?

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Train through the pain

Athletes can safely train through the pain of exercise-induced muscle damage because the damage is not made worse nor recovery delayed by repeated bouts of the same exercise.

That's the encouraging conclusion of a Taiwanese study investigating the effects of seven-day eccentric training on muscle damage and inflammation.

The researchers were testing the theory that performing the same bout of eccentric training every day for six days after an initial bout of unaccustomed exercise would exacerbate inflammatory response and muscle injury at an early stage of the repair process and therefore hinder recovery.

Their study involved 22 college-age males, randomly assigned to either an eccentric training or a control group. On the first day of the study, all the subjects performed a bout of maximal isokinetic voluntary eccentric exercise with the elbow flexors of their non-dominant arm on an exercise machine.

Subsequently the training group performed exactly the same set of exercises for each of the following six days, while the control group were allowed to rest their aching muscles.

The researchers measured a range of indicators of muscle damage and inflammatory response before and immediately after the first bout of exercise and then every 24 hours for seven consecutive days for both groups.

Surprisingly perhaps, there were no significant differences between the training and control groups in the following indicators:

  • Muscle function. Maximal isometric force dropped significantly to about 42% of its pre-exercise value immediately after the first bout of exercise and then started to regain some strength, although it was still not completely restored by the end of the study;

  • Range of motion. There was a significant decrease for both groups after the first bout of exercise, followed by a gradual recovery from day 3;

  • Muscle soreness. For both groups soreness developed one day after the first exercise bout, was sustained for three days and then gradually diminished so it was almost back to baseline by day 7;

  • Arm circumference. This measure of inflammation increased gradually in both groups from immediately after the first bout of exercise to day 5, then started to subside for both groups;

  • Biochemical markers of muscle damage, including enzyme and inflammatory responses.

The major finding about the exercise group was that they were unable to work as hard on days 2-7 as they had on day 1.

Total work values for days 2-7 were only 69%, 65%, 57%, 70%, 72% and 73% respectively of those on day 1.

The researchers are unable to provide a watertight explanation for their findings, but they speculate that an adaptation takes place in response to the initial injury which then acts to protect the active muscles.


Sylvester Stein
Peak Performance

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