Fitness Rules That Are Wrong

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Somewhere along the way, Americans, with their Puritan work ethic, decided sleep was a bad thing.

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But if you're an athlete or, hell, just a human , you need to take sleeping as seriously as you do training and eating. Need proof? In a recent study, 11 Stanford varsity basketball players maintained their sleep schedules for 2 to 4 weeks then slept as much as possible at night for 5 to 7 weeks—aiming for about 10 hours. Researchers measured timed sprints, shooting accuracy, and reaction times after every practice, and levels of daytime sleepiness, and mood throughout.

The results: Athletes sprinted faster, shot more accurately, and felt better. There are ways to lessen the blow, though—without having to actually train more. Research by James Levine, Ph.

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The shift, instead, was to polarize training—training at a very high intensity in this case. After a disappointing showing at the Tour de France, Bradley Wiggins revamped his training to meet the exact demands of the Tour. Forgoing many of the early season races, Wiggins spent time on the island Tenerife, preparing for the races's high-altitude summits.

And his approach paid off: In , he became the first British cyclist to win the race. The truth? The practical application of this is listening to your body—and not assuming that salt is always so bad for you.

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Some research suggests that you lose 8 percent of your muscle mass each decade after age 40 and muscle loss increases significantly after age But in a recent University of Pittsburgh study of 40 competitive athletes ages 40 to 81 who worked out four to five days a week, researchers found that athletes in their 70s and 80s had similar thigh muscle mass as those in their 40s.

The somethings were also just about as strong as the athletes in their 60s. Though a calendar would tell you their time has passed, a lifestyle of movement has kept them in the game.

Plyometric work and pure strength workouts help maintain neuromuscular connections and muscle mass and help generate speed and power. Give those long, slow jogs a break.

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With intensity, your body learns to recognize stress, and overcome it without taking hours out of your day. Being more responsive to immediate stress increases your aerobic capacity, decreases bad cholesterol, works to build lean mass—much more than a long, slow fat-burning workout can offer, says Sims. But at the end of the day, we are our own experiment, Lim adds. Take research that looks at how different athletes respond to variables like altitude.

Some people have no response at all—others have a massive response. Another noteworthy study that discovered great variability in results was the A to Z study, which tested people on four different kinds of diets. While statistically, all diets yielded similar weight loss after a year, a closer look at the data reveals incredible variation.

What works for you may not work for everyone else—and vice versa. In , when Gatorade was introduced to the sidelines of a University of Florida football game, a craze was born. But to consistently reinforce a kid with ice cream and candy for a job well done—such as finishing his homework or behaving in the grocery store—delivers the wrong message. What's more, you should use caution in rewarding kids with any kind of food, including healthy fare.

Know When to Praise Kids aren't stupid. Say a child whiffs at three pitches in a row. The modern parent often tells him, "Good try. I see you've been practicing a lot. Your efforts have paid off,' " says Liston. For instance, you might say, "Good eye on that second and third pitch. Keep swinging at pitches like those, and the hits will come. Perhaps just as important, avoid telling the kid what he should have done: "You have to swing sooner, Billy!

This will boost his confidence and help him improve faster. You might liken it to the approach parents use when a toddler is learning to walk.

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They typically encourage every tiny step of improvement instead of dwelling on the falls. Use the same strategy when you teach the most basic sports skills, and your child will have greater success—and, as a result, more fun. Because the first time most kids hear it, they have no idea what you're talking about.

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That's because children need repetition in order to learn a new task and instill correct behaviors. Stand a few feet away from the kid who should be holding the bat, ready to swing and tell him to look at the ball.

Move toward him with the ball in your hand while continually instructing him to keep looking at the ball. This simple method teaches him to track the ball. When you approach the strike zone, tell him to slowly try to hit the ball with the bat. Now go back to the starting point, but this time toss the ball into the strike zone and allow him to swing at full speed.

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Repeat the process, making sure he's consistently successful before you increase the difficulty by throwing the ball faster. Remember to Keep Play Fun Don't worry too much about the rules. It's also important to avoid embarrassing situations that can stick with a child. That means kids shouldn't pick their own team members, and no one should be made an example when learning a new skill.

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