Exercise and health in lockdown

Mr George Cook, Head of Hockey at WHS, looks at how you can get fitter than you have ever been during lockdown.

In these unprecedented times it is all too easy to fall into the trap of spending time thinking about all of the things this lockdown has taken away from us.

For example:

Seeing friends
Going to work
Sunbathing over the bank holiday weekend
Going out for coffee/food
Going shopping and socialising with friends

Another way to view this unprecedented situation is that we now have more time on our hands than ever before. Time to do all of those tasks and pursue all those goals you have been putting off because you’re ‘too busy’ normally.

The national shortage of flour is an indication of how a large proportion of our society intend to pass the time baking all sorts of high sugar not so healthy snacks and cakes. But what if you could come out of lockdown healthier and fitter than you went into it? And is this even possible?

The lockdown has given the gift of time to the nation. It may sound unreasonable to suggest that increased health and fitness are attainable targets when we are largely confined to our houses. But bear with me, there is light at the end of this tunnel…!

Trainers

Do more than you eat:

We have been told that we can leave for essential food shopping and for exercising. But what if you can’t run or it simply isn’t the mode of exercise for you. No problem, one small change to the way you walk can revolutionise the way you use that magical outdoor hour.

According to the CDC, walking at 1-2mph is considered slow and equates to approximately 50 steps per minute. Fast or brisk walking is between 3-4mph and averages at 100 steps per minute. Within the same timeframe you can double your step count, lift your heart rate and work in your aerobic zone of ~60% maximum effort. This alone can take you above and beyond your NHS target of 150 minutes of exercise a week.

Benefits of sleeping more:

Most of us are guilty of wishing we could just stay in bed that extra 5 or 10 minutes when our alarm goes off in the morning. The reality of work and life schedules mean that more often than not we trade our hours of sleep in order to send that last email, complete that piece of work or to watch another episode of your Netflix series because ‘you’ve earned it’.

The cumulative effect of this on your metabolism can be hugely detrimental to your overall health. It was identified by the sleep foundation that those individuals who slept fewer than 6 hours a night were more likely to store fat and develop symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

This is therefore the perfect opportunity to rewind the effects of stress and lack of sleep that have been building up, perhaps you have become so used to it you didn’t even realise it was a problem anymore.

The lockdown has provided opportunity to hit the reset button on your metabolism and metabolic rate through self-care. And yes, all you have to do is sleep more. The caveat to this is that the same symptoms reappeared in individuals who slept for more than 10 hours a night, regularly.

Sleep
Sleep: the key to a healthy lifestyle?

Opportunities to cook and what to make:

In a world where socialising with friends often includes going out for dinner, coffee and brunch it has become all too easy to develop unhealthy and undesirable eating habits without realising it. Examples could include having a high caffeine intake, consuming lots of high sugar content snacks/sweets/desserts and not drinking sufficient amounts of water.

I’m sure many in society wondered what they might watch on TV now that all live sport has been cancelled for the foreseeable future; cue TV celebrity chefs to save the day. Each day you can find fresh inspiration for new and healthy ideas to sustain your body through lockdown. There are no more late nights away at the office (for most of us), there is more time to prepare a healthy meal to have as opposed to the quick fix oven pizza that normally comes out when tiredness dictates the menu.

Watch below for inspiration:

Healthy nutrition is central to achieving wellbeing.

Maximise your workout and increase your metabolism:

He has rapidly become a household name; from becoming an author, tv star and most recently a PE teacher, Joe Wicks has become famous using one of the most simple and effective training methods available to us.

High intensity interval training: HIIT. This is exercise that involved short periods of high intensity bursts of work followed by short periods of rest.

But what does it actually do for us? Working at your maximum level for a period of 30-60s followed by a short rest period will raise your heart rate and cause you to become tired and out of breath very quickly.

By segmenting these periods of high work rate, we are able to spend more time at these elevated work levels and burn more calories and get fitter.

What to include? HIIT workouts tend to be bodyweight, perfect when your gym is now the living room. Made up of fundamental movements including, squats, lunges and jumps as well as isometric holds, it is possible to take yourself through a full body high intensity workout in less than 30 minutes.

There are many lasting benefits to this, going substantially beyond the 30 minutes you devote to it. Inactivity can lead to muscle wastage and associated injuries and conditions; this will prevent this as you become stronger than you ever imagined completing these regularly.

They also have the lasting benefit of raising your metabolism, in other words, you keep improving even after your workout has come to an end!

Conclusion:

Lockdown has provided opportunity to reset and obtain healthy sleeping patterns, spend more time cooking healthy meals to support a balanced diet and more opportunity to exercise in different ways that can have life changing benefits far beyond our return to normality. Let’s see the positive in the current situation and prioritise our health during lockdown.


References:

Sleep foundation: https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-excessive-sleep-can-affect-your-metabolism

Training to train or training to compete?

Coutts Coutts-Wood, Director of Sport at WHS, looks at the psychology behind training and being active in a competitive environment, and how we can make training more effective.

 

Training is designed to develop a player; it creates a safe learning environment where repetition and reinforcement help to foster the necessary mental and physical skills required for competition. It is where you can try to be the best version of yourself. In training or practice, athletes are often more relaxed and focused, full of positivity and excitement and it is the space in which making mistakes repeatedly is ok. It is where the athlete can learn from errors and where faults are forgivable and ‘allowed’ – after all it’s only training, right?

It can be too easy to approach training or lessons with the mind-set that your time is not as important, that the rewards from excelling are lower and consequently less value is placed upon quality of performance. It’s very easy for pupils at times to think, ‘it’s just a lesson, it’s only a practice, it doesn’t matter’. Does this, therefore, allow the quality of practice and training to diminish? Should poor performance during these sessions be excusable from peers, coaches and athletes alike?

U15 Tumbling Team
U15 Surrey Tumbling Team Champions

Of course, in competition everything is different. The low stake, relaxed and positive emotional state established in training does not always translate into competition. Instead, the ‘now it really counts’ mantra attached to the performance encourages increased pressure from the athletes on themselves. It can be true that for most athletes, once in the competition, thoughts of self-doubt and disbelief creep in so that they tense up, and their fluidity and control is compromised and consequently the performance is not as good as in training. Moreover, athletes experience cognitive overload and narrower attentional focus during competition. A great example of this was shown in in early research on the topic by Yerkes and Dodson and is known as the ‘Inverted U Theory of Arousal’ (1908). Their model looks at the relationship between arousal and performance and suggests that optimal performance should occur when arousal is at a moderate level. If arousal is too low (perhaps in training) or too high (often in competition) performance quality can be compromised.

If we always have this distinction between training and competition, we are never truly preparing ourselves appropriately. It is important to think about how we can get the best results when it really matters and what that means during practices and lessons. It seems vital that any training is structured to mimic the types of competition that we are striving to excel in.

Using training effectively

U13C Netball Team

It is our job as physical educationalists to ensure that our athletes have the ability to handle the psychological ‘now it really counts’ challenge of the event alongside the physical demands. It is now much more common that professional athletes seek sport psychology services to learn how to perform in a competition as well as they do in practice. As Weinberg and Gould (2007) discuss ‘a lack of physical skills is not the real problem – rather, a lack of mental skills’ can be the cause of poor performance.

Your physical ability has not changed or decreased, so why does your performance? In training you don’t always put pressure upon yourself. In training you stay focused on what you are doing. In training you are relaxed and having fun. We must repeatedly train ourselves to always be competition ready, to improve the flow of skills, and to cope with the fast paced, high intensity environment where more is at stake.

So if we really want the performance of our athletes under pressure to resemble what has been done in lessons and training, we need to shift the view that competition is far more exciting than training, of greater importance and only enjoyable because of the extrinsic incentives that motivate performers. We must duplicate exactly what has been done in those practice sessions mentally and improve the coping skills under pressure to reflect the demands of the competitive environment. If we never practice in these high stakes situations, we will never be prepared for competition.

Conclusion

As teachers, I believe it is our role to make training as stimulating as competition, create problem solving opportunities and appropriate challenge. We must fashion training environments where we prepare our athletes for competition and move away from the view that practice is just where you go to train to prove you deserve to be in the team.
So, perhaps next time that dentist appointment is due to be booked over a games lesson, rather than thinking ‘it’s only training’, think would you approach a fixture with the same attitude?
You can therefore expect the quantity of competition-based game scenarios to be increased in lessons and training going forwards to ensure than we are ‘practicing’ at the desired intensity and with the high quality that we know we will need when we formally compete. More ‘mock’ competitions, a bigger audience present, sessions where the stakes are higher will all help reinforce the fact that training and competition should not be seen as separate. Ultimately we will be competing in our training and training to compete.


References
Weinberg, R; Gould, D (2007). Foundations of sport and exercise psychology.

Yerkes, R.M; Dodson, J.D (1908). The relation of strength of stimulus to rapidity of habit formation. Journal of Comparative Neurology and Physiology, 18. 459-482

For interest, I would recommend reading Bounce by Matthew Syed where he discusses the importance of purposeful practice.

Gender Discrimination in Sports

Martha, Year 8, discusses gender discrimination in sports and outlines recent developments that have helped to move the industry towards greater equality.

What is the issue?

Gender discrimination in sports has long been a controversial topic due to inequality regarding wage, audience viewing numbers, and the overall range of opportunities that exists between men and women in the arena of competitive sports. Gender discrimination is still an issue in the 21st century; more people still will watch men’s football than women’s, and women’s football is rarely discussed in the media.

Above: Sport vector created by macrovector 

Why do people consider women’s sports as less deserving than men’s?

Many people think that if there was to be more media coverage or sponsorship of women’s sport it would be more popular with audiences. The media says that if women’s sport generated more interest in the first place then they would invest more time and money into it.

Most people agree on what it takes to make a sport successful: commercial appeal, interest from the general public, and media coverage. The fact is that sponsors are less likely to promote teams or individuals who don’t have lots of media exposure, and not many women in sports do. The Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation found that in 2013, women’s sports received only 7% of coverage and a shocking 0.4% of commercial sponsorships[1].

This is a vicious circle, as viewers want to watch sports at the highest professional standard, and sponsors want to be associated with the best athletes. Because of the lack of sponsorship many female athletes, even those who represent their countries, have to fit training around employment. Many male athletes, however, would have their sport as their profession and as such would not need to divide their training regime with other work. Women who are paid usually earn less than their male colleagues; the Professional Golfers’ Association, for example, offers 256 million dollars in prize money; the women’s association offers only 50 million[2]. This inequality also happens in pay for coaches of women’s teams compared to male teams.

What is happening now?

Things are changing, and there is energy behind equality for the industry. The English women’s cricket team became professional in 2014, signing a two-year sponsorship deal with Kia after winning many Ashes contests. The Wimbledon Championships started awarding women the same amount of prize money as men in 2007[3]. Most importantly, the opinions of sports fans seem to be changing: 61% of fans surveyed by the Women’s Sport and Fitness Foundation said they believed top sportswomen were just as skilful as their male equivalents and over half said women’s sport was just as exciting to watch[4].

The road to equality is not an easy one, and there are many different aspects to achieving this; pay, opportunity and recognition. Lots have been done in more recent years to address aspects like equal pay, but there is still more to do to gain full equality. When the Women’s World Cup has as much excitement, sponsorship and audience engagement as the Men’s World Cup, then we are nearer to having achieved equality in sport.


References

[1] https://www.womeninsport.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Womens-Sport-Say-Yes-to-Success.pdf

[2] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/golf/2018/12/17/top-ten-women-golfers-earn-80-per-cent-less-men/

[3] https://www.cnbc.com/2019/09/11/despite-equal-grand-slam-tournement-prizes-tennis-still-has-a-pay-gap.html

[4] https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2014/07/27/why-professional-womens-sport-is-less-popular-than-mens

 

Does gymnastics have the same mental health benefits as yoga or meditation?

Alba, Y9, looks at how gymnastics may help relieve academic stress and help you excel in other subjects.

When we think of calming meditation, most of us will probably jump to mindfulness. In our stressful and busy lives, meditation and mindfulness are becoming increasingly popular. However, is there a right or wrong way to meditate, and can some sports such as gymnastics be classified as a sort of meditation? In fact, gymnastics is a form of focused movement meditation, and that ultimately it is beneficial to your mental health and as such has a potential positive impact on academic results.

What is focused meditation?

Focused meditation is when you concentrate on your five senses. Many people start by focusing on their breath. It sounds easy, but it is surprisingly difficult to think about just one thing, without your mind wondering and getting distracted.

However, being able to focus is a key attribute for success in life, and it’s a skill that we ideally need. Having considered on one of the senses like your breathing, a wider number of senses can be thought about.

But how does gymnastics compare to this?

Before moving, a gymnast must get into the right frame of mind to execute the move with skill. They must be focussed on themselves, and what they are about to do, and not be distracted. In a routine, you always think about the skill you are currently doing, and not what’s coming next. You are therefore being mindful and focussed on yourself in the present time. This can benefit your academic studies, because, just like mindfulness, it clears your brain so you can learn the next day with an open and more relaxed and focussed mind.

What is movement meditation?

Movement meditation helps connect your mind to your body through actions. The most common practice of this is yoga. Again, your focus is the mind. People who do not like sitting still may prefer this method, and it’s ideal when you are feeling energetic.

How does this happen in Gymnastics?

Tumbling in gymnastics is generating power and executing a sequence of flips and moves. This requires you to be aware of what your body’s doing and think about using muscles you may not otherwise use. As such, the movement becomes the focus, allowing all other thoughts to be shut out, focusing on the present and immediate.

Why should you try gymnastics, and why should it be considered a form of meditation?

Some studies[1] show that mindfulness is great, but if you struggle to do it, it can make you potentially more anxious. They also show that movement meditation like yoga can be more effective for people in stressful situations, or for people who are used to more active lifestyles. It explains why one of the reasons scientists like mindfulness – it is a cognitive method.

Personally, I prefer gymnastics to mindfulness, because I find it hard to keep still when sitting and just thinking about your breath. I enjoy the element of fear/excitement of trying a new skill. After doing gymnastics I feel a lot calmer and ready to study and learn.

I would argue that, although not a standard form of meditation, gymnastics offers benefits for stress relief and utilises skills and techniques such as focus which can help you excel in other subjects. We should have a wider view on what is meditation, and what can help us through the stresses of life.

[1] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-it/201604/incredible-alternative-mindfulness-you-never-heard

The life of a WHS Sports Captain

Emily (Y13) elaborates on her responsibilities as Sports Captain and discusses upcoming sports events

What is my role within the school?

As Sports Captain, I aspire to be a role model that girls can look up to. I myself have looked up to many previous Sports Captains and finally having the chance to represent my school is such an amazing opportunity. I think a Sports Captain should be able to connect with the younger years, work well with the PE department, and spread enthusiasm and a passion to all.

Sports is a huge part of my life and I want to show people that with hard work and determination results will follow. Sport is an amazing thing to be a part of; it teaches you so many life lessons that cannot be readily taught in classrooms. After doing my Extended Project Qualification researching about the impact of sport on teenagers, it has made me even more aware of the importance of being involved and “getting stuck in”.

In such a highly achieving academic school it is sometimes hard to step away from work. I have found, along with many other students here at WHS, that sport is an amazing way to have fun away from screens and books. It is hard to balance work, sport, music, drama and still manage to have a life, but I think that if I can set an example to younger years, it will enable them to see that being an all-rounder is possible.

 

What do I want to achieve in this role?

I have 4 aims whilst in my role that I hope to achieve:

  1. Launch the sports blog

  2. Work with the PE Department to find a strong Sports Leadership Team that will be able to lead with enthusiasm for all years across the school
  3. Improve the high-performance sports programme with the Head of Sport. It is hard to balance high level sports and academics because much of your free time is spent at trainings and matches. I aim to produce a space where our girls can go for help. In addition to this, I want the programme to give interesting and relevance talks which inspire and inform our high-performance students.
  4. Improve the cricket involvement. Cricket was introduced 2 years ago, and as we go into our 3rd year, the PE Department and I aim to improve the standard of training and frequency throughout the year which will allow us to fulfil our potential.

The future is exciting!

There are so many exciting events coming up which are still in the process of being organised, such as Staff vs Sixth Form netball and basketball. For those not familiar to this, they are charity events where enthusiastic teachers play against our Sixth Form’s first team and ‘battle it out’ to see who wins. Stay tuned for further information regarding this! Until then training and matches will be commencing and all I can say is get stuck in and try new things, you never know where it could take you.

 

A few words from me

I am hugely honoured to be Sports Captain for 2019-2020 and I hope that with hard work from me and our PE Department we can achieve higher and have even more fun than before. Good luck for the season, work hard and the wins will follow.

The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method: how does it work to ensure a result in an interrupted cricket game?

Cricket

Rebecca, Year 9, looks at how the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method works to calculate the required score in a cricket match interrupted by the weather.

Raining at Cricket Match
A rain delay at the cricket at the Oval

With the arrival of summer comes the Cricket World Cup in England and Wales. Although England are the favourites, there is no guarantee that they will win. One thing that is pretty much guaranteed though is rain. After all, it is England! But how do you calculate the revised target score in a rain-interrupted match?

The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method (DLS) is a mathematical formula designed to calculate the target score for the team batting second in a limited over cricket match interrupted by weather or other circumstances. It is an attempt to set a statistically fair target for the second team’s innings, which is the same difficulty as the original target. It was devised by two English statisticians, Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis, and is generally accepted to be the most accurate method of setting a target score.

This method is needed as there are so many cricket matches that experience rain delays. Without DLS, there may not be a result from the game or the incorrect result (statistically) may occur. There were many other methods set up before DLS, but none of these took into account both the wickets lost/remaining and the revised number of overs remaining. For example, the Average Run Rate method took no account of how many wickets were lost by the team batting second, but simply reflected how quickly they were scoring when the match was interrupted. So, if a team felt a rain stoppage was likely, they could attempt to force the scoring rate without regard for the corresponding highly likely loss of wickets, skewing the comparison with the first team. Therefore, the DLS method was created.

What is the DLS Method?

The basic principle is that each team in a limited-overs match has two resources available with which to score runs (overs to play and wickets remaining), and the target is adjusted proportionally to the change in the combination of these two resources.

The Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method converts all possible combinations of overs (or, more accurately, balls) and wickets left into a combined resource remaining percentage figure (with 50 overs and 10 wickets equalling 100%), and these are all stored in a published table or computer. The target score for the team batting second (‘Team 2’) can be adjusted up or down from the total the team batting first (‘Team 1’) achieved using these resource percentages, to reflect the loss of resources to one or both teams when a match is shortened one or more times.

In the version of DLS most commonly in use in international and first-class matches (the Professional Edition), the target for Team 2 is adjusted simply in proportion to the two teams’ resources i.e.


The actual resource values used in the Professional Edition are not publicly available, so a computer which has this software loaded must be used.

Table of results
A published table of resources remaining percentages,
for all combinations of wickets lost and whole overs lost

If, as usually occurs, this ‘par score’ is a non-integer number of runs, then Team 2’s target to win is this number rounded up to the next integer, and the score to tie (also called the par score), is this number round down to the preceding integer. If Team 2 reaches or passes the target score, then they have won the match. If the match ends when Team 2 has exactly met (but not passed) the par score then the match is a tie. If Team 2 fail to reach the par score then they have lost.


References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Duckworth–Lewis–Stern_method#Target_score_calculations

http://www.espncricinfo.com/story/_/id/19577040/how-duckworth-lewis-stern-method-works

https://thenortheasttoday.com/archive/the-saga-of-south-africa-and-duckworth-lewis-method/

Does taking part in co-curricular activities really improve academic outcomes?

Jenny Cox, Director of Co-curricular and Partnerships at Wimbledon High, looks at the links between co-curricular activities and the impact these can have on academic outcomes in the classroom.

There has been much research over the years investigating the link between Sport and its benefits – not only to a healthy lifestyle – but to the academic progress of students in schools and universities.  Research has shown that regular physical activity leads to improvements in a range of cognitive functions, including information processing, attention and executive function (Chaddock et al. 2011). However, does involvement in any co-curricular club facilitate academic outcomes?

‘Flow’

Can you think of a time when you have ever been so absorbed in an activity that you have completely lost track of time? That whatever you were doing was challenging, totally captivating, was extending your skills and you were virtually operating in the subconscious? If you can, it’s likely that you were experiencing a phenomenon known as ‘flow’. Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi writing in the 1960s researched this initially with it really coming to the forefront of sports psychology in the 1990s.

He described it as:

“A deeply rewarding and optimal experience characterised

by intense focus on a specific activity

to the point of becoming totally absorbed in it”

Csikszentmihalyi suggested that experiencing ‘flow’ makes us happier and more successful, which in turn leads to increased performance. To get to this point, he pointed out that tasks have to be constantly challenging which in turn results in personal growth and development. This doesn’t mean that we always have to be in a state of optimal performance, but more that we are fully immersed in the process of the task in hand, as shown in the diagram below:

Activities & Flow diagram by Csikszentmihalyi

‘Flow’ experiences can happen as part of everyday life, and Csikszentmihalyi suggested overlearning a concept or a skill can help people experience flow. Within a sporting context, it is sometimes referred to a “being in the zone”, experiencing a loss of self-consciousness and feeling a sense of complete mastery.

Motivation

In addition to overlearning, another key component of finding ‘flow’ is doing activities that we are intrinsically motivated to take part in. This means work and activities that we feel real meaning behind and enjoy doing for the sake of doing. Financial gain, awards and praise can be by-products of the ‘flow’ activities you do, but they cannot be the core motivation behind what you’re doing. Csikszentmihalyi even goes further, saying the feeling should be “such that often the end goal is just an excuse for the process.”

Academic success

So why is this relevant to our school co-curricular programme and can it be linked to academic success?  The links here are two-fold.

Firstly, the co-curricular programme is designed to inspire and enhance the general learning of new skills and concepts. It gives us more time to focus on over-learning a skill or concept because there is no pressure of being examined, therefore no exact specification or course content to get through. We have the luxury of taking our time, over-rehearsing, over practising to a point of taking part in an activity with a loss of sub-consciousness. We may repeat skills so frequently because we revisit them two, three, four, seven, eight times a week, (think of rowing, drama, and music to name just three activities that have repeat weekly sessions), that the feeling of knowing a skill, a sequence, a technique really well and performing is sub-consciously really does happen.

Secondly, with this feeling of ‘flow’ comes those ‘magic moments’ we can all benefit from at any point during the day. The mere fact we are immersed in activity we enjoy could result in us being ‘in the zone’. We are busy immersed in something which is likely to mean we are automatically not thinking about an essay, a grade, a piece of coursework, a friendship or relationship issue at that time and so as a consequence that time contributes enormously to our state of well-being and happiness. This, in turn, is highly likely to lead to a more productive ‘head space’ for work when we return to it, less procrastinating, greater focus and possibly better outcomes.

So can we draw a link between participation in co-curricular activities and academic outcomes? There is research to indicate we can….. happy reading!

References

  • Chaddock, L., C. H. Hillman, S. M. Buck, and N. J. Cohen. 2011. “Aerobic Fitness and Executive Control of Relational Memory in Preadolescent Children.” Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 43 (2): 344–349.
  • Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harper & Row
  • Bailey R. (2016): Sport, physical activity and educational achievement – towards an explanatory model, Sport in Society