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Front Page » December 30, 2003 » Sports »
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By MELANIE STEELE
Sports Reporter

The Sports View

The holiday season is a mixed bag for athletic teams.

In a positive way, players that are injured or sick are finally given the opportunity to heal and catch up on much needed sleep.

However, the huge break can kill a team's momentum. Skills also do not improve and often decline when a team is not practicing every day.

An athlete will never leave for their holiday vacation without getting the standard sport warnings by a coach who fears the loss of the team's progress.

Don't drink soda or it will take away your endurance is one of my favorites.

There is also the encouragement to get out and run every day because stamina is quickly lost.

And of course, a holiday would not be complete without the reminder to watch what we eat lest we gain 10 pounds.

There is not an athlete in existence who has not heard and then passed along these little nuggets of information.

But how accurate are these factoids?

I decided to break down the most common sport/holiday myths and see which ones actually help or hinder an athlete when maintaining themselves over the long winter break

•Don't drink soda - According to La Salle University and the Gatorade Sports Science Institute, the caffeine and carbonation of soda do not steal an athletes wind or endurance.

However, both organizations assert that soda leads to dehydration through increased urine production and reduced consumption of needed liquids, and a dehydrated body cannot perform at full capacity.

Soda also has a lot of empty calories and little or no nutritional value.

Verdict: Consider soda a holiday treat, don't overdo it and don't bring it back to the court.

•Run every day - Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, the journal for the American College of Sports medicine, notes that a combination of frequency, intensity and duration of chronic exercise are required for an athlete to maintain or improve current levels of fitness.

Less intensity would require more frequency and duration to achieve the same effect and so forth.

Vacationing athletes can maintain current levels of fitness by working out every day.

But, those same levels can be maintained with fewer workouts if the athlete is willing to work harder and longer during those workouts.

Verdict: It depends on the athlete.

•Holiday eating can lead to substantial weight gain - Many research groups, including National Institutes of Health, are discovering that the weight gain of Americans during the six week period from Thanksgiving to New Years is usually around one pound.

While a pound is not going to force athletes to upgrade their uniform size, a pound a year for the next 50 years could.

Athletes will most likely be able to undo bad holiday eating with the rigorous practices that will inevitably take place once the holiday is over, but bad habits die hard.

Verdict: Avoid overindulging now and set a good precedence for the future.


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