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Australian National Champion Power lifter.
As a sports and fitness editor, I’m part of a group that looks for, reports on and fuels (for better or worse – yeah, often worse!) health and fitness trends. So here are my predictions – part cynical, part hopeful and mostly factual – on what will be hot and what will be shot in 2014.
The Paleo diet is a great example of what I call “radical foodism”. Like any extremist diet from the past – take the Pritikin and Atkins diets – Paleo has grabbed attention with its set rules and principles. However, to be practical to the masses and sustainable in the long term (for both convenience and ongoing health – after all, caveman died before he would have been at peak risk to most cancers), the rules will have to bend. So if you’ve closed your mind to the Paleo diet, you may want to keep an eye out for its new variations, especially if you’re an endurance athlete – for example, some Paleo advocates now break with tradition and recommend eating starch and sugar, but only during and after training.
I’ve seen some big calls on why you should eat chia seeds: they’re 20% protein (but are you really going to eat 100g of chia seeds?), they have a lot of calcium (but seriously, compared to drinking a cup of milk…) and they make a great replacement for eggs (huh?). But there’s one fact you don’t hear too often, largely because the type of people I see eating chia are sickly office types who might go for the odd power walk. It’s this: chia seeds combat dehydrationbecausethey absorb 30 times their weight in water, they help regulate and prolong body fluid levels and retain electrolytes. Many people make a chia seed “drink” by soaking 1-2 tablespoons in water, fruit juice or electrolyte drink for 5-10 minutes (1-part chia seeds to 7-parts liquid). You end up with a kind of super-hydrating jelly. Despite all the other health claims of chia, this is the one that makes it quite unique.
Many people develop a nasty allergy to gluten. This doesn’t make gluten an evil force that will bring down the human race, even though similar connections have been used to demonize several other foods over the years. As with all things, moderation is the key – and you may need to work out what that level is for you. Expect the powers behind grains and bread to hit back. So relax and enjoy your pasta!
Expect to see more core training that’s built for sports, not (just) six-packs. We will throw sandbags every direction, swing battle ropes, hold bars or other objects overhead while we squat, lunge, walk, run or tip-toe through obstacles. We will hurl medicine balls and even ride unicycles (sure it’s functional – this guy rode around Australia on one). Footballers will Zumba. Anything that’s more interesting than sit-ups and planks.
Yoga just keeps coming back. Unlike Pilates, the stability ball or Zumba, yoga has seemingly endless variations. There’s flow yoga, hot yoga, power yoga, yoga for athletes, even naked yoga (Sanskrit nagna yoga). Expect to see yoga consultants crop up in more sports to provide athletes with the yoga style, routines and postures relevant for the strength, flexibility and recovery required for their sport
This is nothing new for pro athletes, and like a lot of things the pros do, it will filter down to the next levels. The proliferation of 24-hour gyms, the comeback of outdoor training, training management apps/online trainers and an increasing emphasis on recovery will all be factors. Plus for those of us with jobs, spouses and families, there are always days when we have no time to spare, and days when we have gaps in our busy lives for a couple sessions. In many ways, it just makes sense. Twice a day training can encourage us to alternate low and high intensity sessions (which many people find hard!) and allow for more longer recovery periods. For example, if you train five times per week and two days you train twice a day, you can have longer and more frequent recovery periods than training once-a-day five times per week. This can work well if you’re incorporating different stresses on the body, e.g. strength, anaerobic and aerobic training, although the sequence of the sessions becomes important, plus you should have six hours or more between sessions on the same day.
Shoe companies have made a killing on the barefoot running philosophy – couldn’t you just choke on that paradox? The ‘barefoot-style’ shoes have the risk that people wear them too often, too soon, which can lead to injury… Plus nothing induces the proprioception, flexibility and foot strength quite like running in… well, nothing.
Barefoot training is great, but for most people it works best as only a small part of their training – and when we really do it barefoot. This principle will come back to the fore.
This is another case where something commonly used in pro sports teams will filter down to the rest of us. Advanced athletes commonly use biofeedback apps such as HRV (heartrate variability) or apps/online training monitoring based on RPE reports (rate of perceived exertion) to guard against overtraining. For busy recreational athletes, such tools will help them judge the effect of life stresses – and illness/injury/lack of sleep – on their training and provide the answers on how much and at what intensity they should train.
Several studies have questioned icing for recovery and the liberal use of ibuprofen and diclofenac as a preventative measure for muscle soreness is now frowned upon. Consequently, keep an eye out for new independent research that will explore how to best incorporate compression garments with other recovery variables, such as temperature, mobility/stretching, sleep and how they work specifically for different activities.
Who can ever tell what the next buzz ‘super food’ will be? My bet is that a wild and woolly one will crop up at this year’s World Cup. Lionel Messi will credit his miraculous recovery from Achilles tendonitis to eating two tablespoons of turmeric a day. Luis Suarez will put his superhuman feats through extra time in 35°C heat down to his daily intake of chicken feet. Christiano Ronaldo’s “secret diet” of amaranth and cordyceps (a parasitic dried fungus that grows on caterpillar larvae in Tibet) will be copied by aspiring young footballers everywhere. Maybe.
You heard it here first.