True athletes?

I’m neither going to ask you the well-­‐ known question nowadays: “Do you consider Ballroom dancing a sport or a form of art?” nor which decision did you take-­‐ to be an athlete or an artist. It is your choice, everyone deserves to have one. But what is more important is what really Ballroom dancing has become. Everyone can easily agree that more often we happen to be spectators of a sport event like the Olympic games. The only difference is that our adjudicators are not holding stopwatches but PDA’s or sheets of paper. Dancers have a lot of stamina; they become more athletic and faster than ever before. These are some characteristic qualities of an athlete. I am not saying that is bad at all.

“Pro Athletes Influence Society More Than Pastors”

Okay, let’s define what is an athlete actually. “An exceptionally physically fit person who actively participates in physical sports, possibly highly skilled in sports.” (wikipedia.org) GREAT, we fit in this definition we are “athletes”. So far so good, but if we take it from another perspective, the one about how society see the athletes? “Pro Athletes Influence Society More Than Pastors” (Jeremy Weber, cleanings.com)

If we think about this last quote, why would people look on athletes with such admiration and take them as deep inspiration? A simple answer: Because of their fit bodies, strength, endurance, their strong will power and motivation for success. Society look on them as “Gods” because of their lifestyle (typical way of life of an individual, group, or culture.-­‐ Wikipedia.org) and health condition. A sportsman is a mirror look of healthy person who is very determined to achieve great heights and who can suffer great pain thanks to their high determination and motivation.

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A typical day of a professional athlete is completely different from the one of a lawyer for example. They have a special training schedule and practices (different for various purposes) such as: training for speed, endurance, explosive muscle contraction, muscle building programs. This description seems to be a lot like dancer’s day. We practice nearly every day, we do have different practices, one for endurance and stamina, one for technique, one for partnering, one for physical preparation etc. For many of us (dancers) the similarities end up here.

Have you ever thought about the only thing, which you are destined to live with through your entire life? Yes! It is your body. The body is the most powerful tool of a man. Now you are going to say that everyone has a body, so he can be an athlete. Indeed it is true, everyone can take up a sport no matter for professional or personal reasons. The difference is how you are going to use the body. What if we think that we are craftworkers and our bodies are our tools and machines for achieving perfection in what we are doing? We all know that craft masters take very special care for the tools and machines they are working with because they are earning their living, if they are dirty, not well oiled or even broken, they would not be able to earn money.

Here comes the separation between true great athletes and just random ones. It is about how they treat their bodies and how they are lifestyle is inKluencing their performance. To be the best athlete out there you need to pay attention to every little detail that can make an impact on your health and performance of your body (tool, machine) i.e. food, bad habits, and environment. These on first sight insignificant things can sabotage our best performance because the body is a sacred place, a temple, that special thing in your life that you should take good care of it cause it is going to be there with you quite long time.

Most of professional athletes know this very well and work for the preservation of the best condition of their bodies through out their entire life. Now you would think that I am talking only about the Kit aspect of the problem, well, its not only about being visually fit, which of course is very attractive and give advantage, but, its more important that your body is like a well oiled machine, an athlete’s body needs to be like a Rolex-­‐ “Crafted from the finest raw materials and assemble with scrupulous attention to every detail” which is why Rolex is a Rolex, maybe the best watch out there, one of the most expensive, delivering the best possible performance.

The thing that made me write this article is that I really don’t believe that we (ballroom dancers) act like professional athletes. Most of the dancers are not taking enough caution when it comes to preparing their body for the training process and health condition. Nowadays I see even more dancers who are smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and eating unhealthy and wrong foods related to their specific type of activity which all have negative affect the performance. I don’t think that this is only competitors fault, it is our coaches and teachers we should blame, because we lack knowledge about this aspects of an athletes life.

Reading this you are going to say that I am talking about being slim, taking care of what we eat because we are going to put on weight etc. but it is not what I’m aiming to discuss and share with you.

I really what to emphasize on the health aspect of all this because, having a healthy body is of vital importance for every athlete and someone who is determined to achieve some goals, no matter if they are winning a competition, World, European title or whatever.

So how we can become true athletes who take a lot of things in consideration for their health condition? First, we should educate ourselves-­‐ both coaches and competitors. We should have at least some basic knowledge in anatomy and in science of nutrition.

Basically what we need to know is our body composition, and what it needs to work properly for different activities, and of course what damages the cell, tissues, muscles, organs and systems, and what we should to avoid it.

“The human body is the entire structure of a human organism and comprises a head, neck, torso, two arms and two legs.”(Wikipedia). Inside of it are all organs, which form various systems. The body composition on molecule level is not that complicated but quite important: it consists of water (65%), proteins, fats, and carbohydrates in form of glycogen and glucose, gases.

Now you are thinking why do we need to know all that? If we want to take the best out of our bodies we need to understand everything around it, how everything goes and works.

Something very simple that every person “knows”-­‐ you should drink water because you are dehydrating through physical activities.

images-2But athletes are not just ordinary people; we don’t need to just drink some water stay hydrated. We need to take serious amount of water (at least 3-­‐4l/day, especially when we are practicing) to avoid kidney stones for instance. Why is that needed? “Kidney stones form when there is not enough fluid in the body to flush out the waste products.”(Pete Williams, 2011). Now imagine how much you are sweating through a practice and what is happening with the waste that cannot go out because we are dehydrated. Yes, kidney stones formed in athletes are very common problem, so we have to be more cautious about that. How many of you knew that we are at much higher risk than other people? Just think about it, drink more water stay kidney stone free.

“Proteins are large biological molecules consisting of one or more chains of amino acids.” (Wikipedia). Is it vital? Indeed it is of absolute vital importance for every athlete. Why? As I quoted the definition of a protein molecule, it consists of amino acids, which muscle takes as “building bricks”. If we want to put on muscle or maintain muscle form of the body, which is crucial for an athlete, we must take proteins, which break down to amino acids, which feed the muscle to grow. If we don’t take enough protein everyday with our food (mostly meat, eggs) we are doomed to loose that precious muscle tissue cause the body needs fuel and it is going to take it by burning muscle fibers. Nobody wants to loose muscle. Have you every thought why most of male dancers are that skinny? It is because while dancing we are burning much calories, most of them coming from the body fuel-­‐glycogen and glucose and protein as well, but for our long hours of practice we start burning the natural fuel (glucose) and start to burn muscle and fat, because we lack calories from food.

“Carbohydrates are a common source of energy in living organisms” (Wikipedia). Carbohydrate is arguably the most important source of energy for athletes. When eaten they are broken down into smaller sugars like I said before in the “Protein” section (glucose, fructose and GA lactose) that get absorbed and used as energy. The glucose, which you don’t use right away gets stored in the muscles and the liver as glycogen. When these glycogen stores are filled up, any extra gets stored as fat. Simply, you should eat carbohydrates to feed your body with energy, which you need for the training process. Adequate carbohydrate intake also helps prevent protein from being used as energy as I mentioned before. If the body doesn’t have enough carbohydrate, protein is broken down to make glucose for energy. Because the primary role of protein is as the building blocks for muscles, bone, skin, hair, and other tissues, relying on protein for energy (by failing to take in adequate carbohydrate) can limit your ability to build and maintain tissues. Additionally, this stresses the kidneys because they have to work harder to eliminate the byproducts of this protein breakdown. Carbohydrate stored as glycogen is an easily accessible source of energy for exercise. How long this energy supply lasts depends on the length and intensity of exercise and can range anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes or more. They are two types of carbohydrates-­‐ simple and complex-­‐ due to the time they need to be digested and absorbed by the body. Seems like a serious issue.

Fats are an essential nutrient for optimal health. It surrounds most of our organs to provide them with a “shield” which protects them; also it is the largest reserve of stored energy available for activity. Fat is of vital importance because it stimulates the hormone production, the hormones are the messengers of the body-­‐ they transport signals from one cell to the other. Three types of fats are found in the nature-­‐ saturated, unsaturated and trans fats. Don’t get me wrong; only “good” fats are very important for the healthy body, these are the unsaturated fats.

That was a really very basic look on things about nutrition science, which has a great affect athlete’s peak performance. The right nutrition can help you excel in sports, recover faster, decrease your risk of injury, and even reduce muscle soreness. Proper sports nutrition can also help you avoid dehydration, general exercise fatigue, and more. Fuel your body right to get the most out of your efforts.

There are many factors that determine an athlete’s sports performance. After you mastered the basic training concepts, having some additional knowledge and understanding can help you reach the next level of sports performance.

“Just like the Rolls Royce engine, which is working best with the best oils and fuels out there on the market.”

I don’t want to be the one to cast the Kirst stone, but we really lack knowledge on that base. We need to educate ourselves, because nowadays it is of great importance to have a very good functioning body. To have that you need to put the right and healthy macronutrients there to perform at your best every time. Just like the Rolls Royce engine, which is going to work best with the best oils and fuels out there on the market. Think about your body as a temple, you don’t throw garbage in temples, why would you do this with your body?

“Dis-­‐moi ce que tu manges, je te dirai ce que tu es.” (Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are). Anthelme Brillat-­‐Savarin

Sources:http://wikipedia.org/
http://bodybuilding.com/
http://sportsmedicine.about.com/
“The new encyclopedia of modern bodybuilding” Arnold Schwarzenegger

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