SPORTS TRIBUNE Saturday, February 3, 2001, Chandigarh, India

Are you exercising too much?
From Helen Foster in London
HE exercise season is upon us, January being the busiest time of the year at any gym as old members work off the excesses of Christmas and new ones the excesses of the past five years. But experts warn that we should proceed with care: throwing yourself too vigorously into a new fitness regime can make you vulnerable to a number of health risks, including osteoporosis and reduced fertility.

Junior athletic meet an organisational disaster
By Ramu Sharma
N the years to come the recently concluded Junior Athletics Championships at Bangalore will always be counted as one of the worst examples of organisational failure. Failure not because something unexpected happened. It was a failure because it was meant to be so.

Superb showing by Surinder
By Gopal Sharma
URINDER Singh Baggal, the lanky left-arm fast medium bowler, was almost a non-entity a couple of months ago. But a sudden quirk of fate resulting in a series of superlative performances on the field have catapulted the unassuming lad on the fringe as far as selection to the national squad is concerned.

  • Chance for India to halt Aussies

  • Kudos to SA




Are you exercising too much?
From Helen Foster in London

THE exercise season is upon us, January being the busiest time of the year at any gym as old members work off the excesses of Christmas and new ones the excesses of the past five years. But experts warn that we should proceed with care: throwing yourself too vigorously into a new fitness regime can make you vulnerable to a number of health risks, including osteoporosis and reduced fertility.

“Exercise is a stress on the body,” says Dr Nick Webborn, medical adviser to the UK’s National Sports Medicine Institute. “That’s how it makes you fitter. You stimulate your body and it adapts to this stimulus by building muscle and strengthening the heart and lungs.” Done correctly, this will be one of the most potent things you can do for your health — moderate exercise has been shown to lower the risk of heart disease, some cancers and endless day-to-day ailments. Increasingly, however, research is demonstrating how many of our workout habits mean that the health benefits of regular exercise are being overridden by the negative effects — that is, by attempting to be too fit too fast, we don’t strengthen our body through exercise, we actually attack it.

Problems occur for one of three reasons: we either work out too hard, for too long or too often. Of these, experts believe working too hard is the most damaging. If you work out really hard, all the ways in which your body is supposed to adapt to exercise stress go out of control. Take your immune system — ideally, exercise should stress it into producing more fighting cells, but if you work too hard this doesn’t happen. Instead, it stresses it so much that the vital killer cells that are supposed to protect us are actually destroyed and for up to 24 hours any bug in the vicinity can take hold (one reason a third of marathon runners get sick after the race).

Outside of the immune system, you’ll find that instead of reducing the effects of stress on the body, a high-intensity workout actually increases levels of the most harmful stress hormone, cortisol, causing endless problems for circulation and the nervous system. And while moderate exercise causes your bones to go into a process of recycling — during a normal workout, they are broken down by cells called osteoclasts ready to be mended by so-called osteoblasts afterwards — working out too hard knocks this process out of balance and the amount of bone broken down is increased. Add to this the fact that heavy exercise can cut oestrogen levels in the body, and it’s easy to see why new research shows increasing numbers of athletes getting osteoporosis up to 20 years earlier than normal.

Another effect of overdoing exercise, is the overproduction of molecules called free radicals which rampage around the body attacking healthy cells. At moderate exercise levels, free radical increase can be fought by your body, but during an intense workout some areas of the body produce as much as 200 times more free radicals than normal, increasing free-radical damage to cells — a process which has been linked to everything from cataracts to cancer.

Preventing these problems is relatively easy. You monitor the intensity of your workout and so prevent yourself from working out too hard. “The idea is to ensure that the majority of your workout is done at around 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate,” says Dr Ian Swaine, principal lecturer in exercise physiology at the De Montfort University, England. “You work this out by subtracting your age away from 220, then working out 70 per cent of this. This is the number of beats per minute your heart should beat, and it’s the level at which you should exercise to maximise the gains made from exercise and minimise the negatives.”

This doesn’t mean, however, that as long as you keep working out steadily, you can spend hour after hour in the gym. Working out for too long or too many times in a week can also cause problems. Ralph Pffanberg Jr and his team at Stanford University Medical School, USA, studied nearly 17,000 men and found that exercisers who burnt between 2,000 and 3,000 calories a week exercising (about three-and-a-half to five hours of moderate running or cycling) had significantly lower death rates from heart disease than non-exercisers. However, when men burnt more than 3,000 calories a week (about four 75-minute sessions), this protective effect began to decline and death rates started to climb again. Similar thresholds have been shown for women. The sensible exerciser, therefore, will aim for the 2,000 to 3,000 calorie mark — about three-and-a-half to five hours a week, with no session lasting longer than one hour.

You should also make sure you rest for a day between sessions. “Many people think this will lower your fitness level, but that’s not true. The gains you make when you work out actually occur in the rest period for 24 hours afterward as your body repairs. It can’t do this if you’re working out again,” says Prof Mike Gleeson from the School of Exercise Science at the University of Birmingham, England. If you insist on training every day, Gleeson says, “you should at least ensure a heavy workout is followed by a light day using different muscle groups.”

Of course, if you are training for an endurance event like a marathon, cutting back won’t be an option. In this case, your protection comes from your diet. What you do or don’t eat can make a huge difference to the effects that exercise can have. Start by supplementing with the antioxidant nutrients that will help fight free-radical damage. Studies at Washington University School of Medicine showed that exercisers given 600iu of vitamin E, 1,000mg of vitamin C and 30mg of beta carotene before they worked out produced 36 per cent fewer free radicals during their workout than normal. “You can also cut immuno-suppression by ensuring you eat before a workout,” says Professor Gleeson. “The immune system gets more depressed when people work out on an empty stomach.” He also points out that exercising in extremes of temperature increases the risk of immuno-suppression.

Finally, watch your equipment — if it’s not up to scratch, you might find that it’s not just your immune system you have to worry about. A recent Austrian study showed that 95 per cent of men who mountain-biked about 3,000 miles a year had developed deformities in the scrotum that could lead to fertility problems in the future. It was believed much of the problems were caused by knocks to the testes from bikes with suspension problems and hard saddles. This echoed findings that showed that high-duration cyclists were developing impotency due to damage to the nerve endings in the groin caused through crotch-to-saddle contact.

Of more universal concern is the increase in risk of injury to the knees and back caused by wearing trainers that have lost their suspension. Make sure you replace training shoes every 500 miles of running, or about every 100 hours of any other exercise. If you aren’t sure how many miles your footwear has logged, take them to a sports shop, try one new trainer and one old trainer at the same time and run, jump, walk — whatever — just concentrate on how your body feels as it hits the ground. If the new shoe feels dramatically bouncier, you need to buy new shoes.

Overall, what’s important is to listen to your body and to aim to strengthen and improve it through sensible exercise. Doing so will bring many benefits, ranging from protecting your heart to creating better orgasms.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that, according to Ian Swaine, “the benefits of exercise are so powerful that even if you are working too hard you have less risk of major health problems than a couch potato. But for optimum gain, get the balance right.”

Take a break: work out too hard and you’ll pay the price.

— By arrangement with The Guardian

Experts recommend that you look out for the following signs — if you are experiencing more than two or three of them then it’s time to take a rest.

  • Your resting heart rate is 8bpm more than normal. Regular exercisers should get used to knowing their heart rate by taking it first thing in the morning (while still in bed). If it increases by more than 8bpm over a day, your body is trying to tell you something — it could be that you’re coming down with a bug, it could be that you’re overdoing it. Either way, you need a rest.

  • How are your POMS? The effects of exercise are not just physical. When looking for overtraining, experts measure something called the Profile of Mood States (POMS). If you find you’re getting more depressed, having more mood swings, feeling irritable or experiencing loss of libido, take a break.

  • Are you fatigued or having trouble sleeping? Both can be signs of overtraining.

  • How’s your health? Frequent infections (particularly respiratory infections) are a sign that your immune system is suppressed, which is a sign that you’re working too hard. Be sure to take a break and include proper rest periods.



Junior athletic meet an organisational disaster
By Ramu Sharma

IN the years to come the recently concluded Junior Athletics Championships at Bangalore will always be counted as one of the worst examples of organisational failure. Failure not because something unexpected happened. It was a failure because it was meant to be so. The Karnataka Athletics Association had just not bothered to anticipate the problems created by organisational lapses. What was worse was with the January 23, 2001, exception of a couple of newspapers, the event failed to get a proper look-in in the print media. As for the visual media was concerned, athletics as always was a non-sport. It was hardly given any mileage or was virtually ignored.

The problems appeared to have surfaced on the third day when the Secretary of the Amateur Athletics Federation of India, Mr Lalit Bhanot, decided to step in and take action against some blatant age-group infiltration. There were reportedly some 50 cases of athletes jumping into sections reserved for lower age competitors.

Here one must congratulate the AAFI for finally taking action to check a problem which has been threatening to ruin the sport. Only recently the cricket board had come down heavily on players giving false certificates in order to jump into lower age category. The board in fact had issued a ruling which called for a medical examination of the participating teams by the respective associations before the actual start of the tournaments. Cricket has fewer players and various age-group tournaments are held separately.

But athletics is a different cup of tea. The National Junior Age Group Championships are held together with boys and girls of under-20, under-18 and under 16 all taking part in the competition at the same time. It is virtually impossible for a state association to conduct medical examination of say a whole lot of athletes of all age-groups before sending them to take part in the national championships.

What the Secretary of the AAFI did was to ensure that the meet in Bangalore was rid of over-age problems in such a way that it would not easily recur again. He managed to clear the on-going competition of most of the illegal athletes, some through persuasion and some others by forcing a medical examination on suspicion. His methods did succeed but it also left a bitter taste and naturally so. No one wants to be called a cheat and medically proved so too.

The AAFI has acted swiftly but though somewhat late on this issue. This is a problem which has been plaguing junior athletics for some decades now and the federation, despite proof in many cases, has not been able to act for reasons best known to them. But now that some action has been initiated one hopes future meets will be free of such problems.

But back to Bangalore and the Junior Nationals. Lalit Bhanot first offer was reportedly accepted by 14 athletes (12 boys and two girls) who volunteered to withdraw from the competition. They were let off quite easily, barred only from further participation in the on-going championship.

Then came the warning and compulsory reference to the medical authorities on suspicion. Some 50 of them were sent to the doctors with the threat “anybody detected despite the offer to withdraw will be dealt with differently. The athlete and the concerned association will be debarred for three years”. The AAFI was not pulling any punches now.

The immediate fallout of the voluntary withdrawal was that the organisers had to withhold the results of 10 events. And later, after medical tests, when it was found that some 25 athletes had been found to have been guilty of taking part in lower age groups, the AAFI slapped a ban of one year on them. They were given a month’s time to prove their innocence and challenge the decision.

The ban and related issues, including paucity of officials, leading to inaccuracies in tabulating the results all finally led to a chaotic ending to a meet which should have held without any problems, considering the importance of junior athletics in India.

The chaos did not end with the concluding ceremony. In fact the programme was somewhat extended with the organisers later withdrawing all the team championship awards, thereby tacitly admitting mistake in the organisational machinery.

This will mark as one of the worst examples of organisation in athletics. The fact the dubious distinction has been claimed by Karnataka makes it even worse. Athletics in India has not always had the best of organisation as far as the States are concerned. The late P.K. Mathur and his friends and colleagues had set a great example while organising the Railway athletics in Delhi but unfortunately the other affiliated units of the federation have not been able to emulate them. Priorities have generally been mixed with often the ceremonial aspect give more importance. The AAFI has acted swiftly to punish those guilty of cheating on ages. 


Superb showing by Surinder
By Gopal Sharma

SURINDER Singh Baggal, the lanky left-arm fast medium bowler, was almost a non-entity a couple of months ago. But a sudden quirk of fate resulting in a series of superlative performances on the field have catapulted the unassuming lad on the fringe as far as selection to the national squad is concerned. The 26-year-old Surinder, hailing from Ratiya Suchaini village in Jammu district, has been named among 25 probables for the forthcoming series against the Australian team. Besides, he has been selected to play in India “B” team in the Challenger Series involving the best three teams the country has.

Surinder first shot into prominence in this season’s Ranji Trophy match against Punjab at Jalandhar when he produced a vicious burst polishing off the cream of the rival batting line-up at the beginning of the innings. Though Punjab were let off the hook later, Surinder had left a distinct impression of his capabilities. In the earlier match against Himachal Pradesh he claimed four wickets in the first innings enabling Jammu and Kashmir record a four-wicket victory. Against Haryana, Surinder again scalped three rounding off the Ranji league phase with a haul of 18 wickets.

Surinder made his Ranji Trophy debut in 1997-98 against Delhi when he had an ordinary outing. But during the last season he emerged the most successful bowler from the state in the national championship. In the past one decade, he is only the second player after Aswani Gupta from the state to play in North Zone team in the Duleep Trophy.

But it was his selection to the Duleep squad from North Zone this season which provided Surinder an ideal platform to showcase his prowess as a useful left-arm fast medium bowler. Surinder grabbed the chance with both hands claiming five wickets on his debut match versus South Zone on a batsman-friendly track at Vijayawada . In the next match versus West Zone at SAS Nagar, Surinder bowled a nippy spell taking five wickets. Surinder, undoubtedly, was the best bowler on view in the match in which Zaheer Khan and Ashish Nehra also played. In the rest of the Duleep Trophy matches he bowled well and did nothing to tarnish his reputation.

What is admirable about Surinder is that he invariably keeps the ball up. Without running too hard in his bowing run-up he generates pace bringing his strong shoulders into play. Hitting the deck hard he makes the batsmen hurry.

Surinder, who keeps himself busy playing club cricket in New Delhi, is keen on improving his batting. It was he, along with former India one-day player Ajay Jadeja, who in his maiden appearance for Jammu and Kashmir slammed a century and Abdul Qayoom who enabled Jammu and Kashmir enter the knock-out stage of the Ranji Trophy Championship for the first time at the expense of Haryana.

Though selection to the national squad does not guarantee him a berth in the Indian squad as besides the first-choice quartet of Javagal Srinath, Venkatesh Prasad, Ajit Agarkar and Zaheer Khan, the likes of Debasish Mohanty and Ashish Nehra, are there waiting in the wings. But this selection should serve as an ideal morale-booster for Surinder and provide him the best opportunity to rub shoulders with the likes of experienced Srinath and Prasad and pick up finer points from the bowlers who have served the country with distinction. 


Chance for India to halt Aussies

The kings of Test cricket are soon coming to meet India on home soil. Both the teams are full of confidence and the series shall be very interesting. The reason is obvious. If Australia win, they will undoubtedly reaffirm their status as champions in Test cricket but in case they lose there will be a question mark on their status as world champions. India might prove again that it is very difficult to beat them on home soil. In that case they will not only save their own record but will also end the visitors winning spree. We hope Sachin, Saurav and Dravid perform well against McGrath, Brett Lee and Shane Warne.


Kudos to SA

South Africa deserve accolades as they wrapped up the three-Test series 2-0 against Sri Lanka. They handed down a crushing defeat in the third and final cricket Test. South Africa’s McKenzie and skipper Pollock excelled in the absence of Sri Lanka’s ace spinner Muralitharan and opening bowler Vaas who could not do duty for their side owing to groin injuries. Both plundered runs freely and scored 103 and 111, respectively, to help their team amass 378 in their first innings. Sri Lanka slumped to 119 in their first essay. Consequently they were forced to follow on but were again dismissed for 252 making them concede defeat by an innings and seven runs. With that their dismal tour of South Africa, during which they were outplayed, outclassed and mauled, came to an end. The Lankans were also drubbed in the shortened version of the game as they lost the first five one-dayers consecutively. They could score a face-saving victory by defeating the Proteas by four runs only in the sixth and final one-day international.