Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Don't Forget to Bring the Cooler !

Summer (with its heat and humidity) is almost over, but it's always a good time to think about ways to improve your performance.

For those of you living (and playing ball) in hot, humid climates, here's an interesting study from the United Kingdom that appears in the September 2008 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the official journal of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Researchers wanted to examine the effects of drinking a cold liquid (instead of one at room temperature) on an athletes body temperature, heart rate, and endurance in the heat.

They took 8 young men (average age =22) and had them pedal on a bicycle to exhaustion in a hot and humid environment, once while drinking a warm (98.6 degrees fahrenheit) liquid and once while drinking the same amount of liquid at a cooler temperature (~39 degrees) .

They found that compared with the warmer liquid, drinking a cold drink before and during exercise in the heat reduced physiological strain (kept the body cooler) and increased the athletes' endurance capacity by more than 20%.

So what does that mean for you? The next time your team is scheduled to play a tournament outside or in a hot gym environment, it might be worth the cost and effort to store your drinks
(water, sports drinks) in a cooler. Don't like to be the one to carry the cooler(s)? Then you can ride the Cooler Train (above). It might help you get where you want to go.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Another Use for a Pillow

Want to improve your agility?
Want to reduce your risk of an ankle or knee injury?
Work on your balance.

Among the many skills a basketball player requires, good balance helps you move quickly in different directions, react to changes on the court, and avoid injury.

One popular exercise used to both evaluate and improve balance is the single leg balance test.

While you can go online to find lots of different programs to improve your balance, people often tell you that you need special equipment, like a BOSU, wobble board, or balance disc.

While these are all useful for more advanced balance and proprioceptive training, not everybody has access to a health club or can afford to buy them to use them at home.

One solution is laying there on your bed.
Yep, your friendly neighborhood pillow.

If you've already perfected your single leg balance on the floor (with hands on hips, eyes closed and supporting knee slightly bent x60 seconds) then you're ready to use your pillow.

Place it on the floor and perform a single leg balance exercise with your foot on top of it.
If that's still too easy, try 2 pillows. That should give you a good start.

Working on your balance using pillows at home is an easy and inexpensive way to improve your performance and reduce your risk of injury.

Just don't forget to wash the pillow cover once in a while or else you might start dreaming of sweaty feet.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Breathe Easily

If you or someone you know is a basketball player who has asthma (like Dominique Wilkens, shown above), here's useful website that I recently read about., gives you the chance to check out the allergy and air-quality levels for any zip code in the United States. They also have a place where you can sign up for asthma alerts by e-mail on the days that your local ashtma index level might be a concern.

Unless it's severe, asthma shouldn't stop someone from playing basketball. But it's important to know that playing basketball with asthma CAN cause significant breathing problems. In fact, an article from the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology (volume 113, nuber 2, Feb 2004) found that basketball was the sport most often associated with deaths in athletes with asthma (13 over a period of 7 years).

So what can you do? If you have asthma, work with your doctor to create an asthma action plan that uses medicine to control your asthma and/or rescue you from an attack, make sure you take the time to warm up before playing, and avoid triggers (like high pollen counts, smoke, and poor air-quality) that might cause an asthma attack.

Take care of your asthma, then take it strong to the hoop.