Se­crets to bet­ter re­sults

> The re­cent Olympics saw the in­tro­duc­tion of new tech­nol­ogy in sports­wear, and other tools used by ath­letes to en­hance their per­for­mance

The Sun (Malaysia) - - LIFESTYLE - JONATHAN TAN

AMER­I­CAN swim­ming leg­end Michael Phelps ( right) was spot­ted with his back full of big red dots dur­ing the re­cent Rio Olympics, and the whole world went nuts won­der­ing what those were, and if they were part of a new ‘se­cret weapon’ to make him swim faster.

How­ever, two bil­lion peo­ple in China and some other Chi­nese-speak­ing com­mu­ni­ties around the world knew ex­actly what those mys­te­ri­ous red patches were all about.

They were the re­sult of an an­cient tra­di­tional Chi­nese medic­i­nal prac­tice known as cup­ping. I per­son­ally have had it done on me when I was a wee lad.

My great granny ad­min­is­tered it when­ever I had a bloated tummy, be­cause I was a greedy boy.

Whether it helped Phelps to win five gold medals and one sil­ver at the Rio Olympics is an­other mat­ter.

The pre­vi­ous two Olympics (Beijing and Lon­don) also saw the in­tro­duc­tion of new tech­nol­ogy in sports­wear and other tools to im­prove per­for­mance.

More than 130 swim­ming world records were bro­ken from 2008 through 2009, thanks to the use of these high-tech swim­suits.

These high-per­for­mance swimwear are made from sci­en­tif­i­cally-ad­vanced ma­te­ri­als and used for com­pet­i­tive wa­ter sports.

Ma­te­ri­als of this na­ture in­crease the glide through the wa­ter, and are said to mimic ma­rine an­i­mal skin. They also re­duce wa­ter ab­sorp­tion com­pared to reg­u­lar swim­suits.

Some com­pa­nies claimed that their fabrics could even re­duce the fric­tion caused by hu­man skin through the wa­ter, and had come out with a line of high-end com­pet­i­tive swimwear de­signed to cover the arms and legs that could in­crease the swim­mer’s speed by be­tween 3% and 7%.

Does it re­ally help? Well, Phelps did win a record eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games wear­ing such a suit.

Sev­eral years ago, there was much hype over a new type of cloth­ing for sports per­for­mance – com­pres­sion wear.

Com­pres­sion wear has been clin­i­cally proven to help re­lieve pain from mus­cle stiff­ness and sore­ness, and re­duc­ing the time taken for mus­cles to re­pair them­selves.

It is also used to im­prove ve­nous re­turn and oxy­gena­tion to work­ing mus­cles.

So, is com­pres­sion wear truly ef­fec­tive for sport? I would say yes. Af­ter all, com­pres­sion wear has been pre­scribed med­i­cally to aid re­cov­ery and aid blood cir­cu­la­tion.

Then again, the 100m world record was bro­ken in Lon­don 2012 by an unas­sum­ing un­known from a small is­land in the Caribbean, wear­ing a not-so­fa­mous brand of T-shirt and pair of run­ning shorts.

He beat out seven other ath­letes wear­ing com­pres­sion wear from head to toe, giv­ing tech­nol­ogy a hard slap in the face.

It was also no­tice­able fewer com­pres­sion wear out­fits worn by com­peti­tors dur­ing the track-and-field events in Rio. And yes, the Car­ribean sprinter won again, in pretty much the same clothes.

Also, did you see the mys­te­ri­ous striped tape bad­minton leg­ends Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan wore dur­ing the re­cent Rio Games?

Those have ac­tu­ally been around for a few years al­ready, and re­ally came into the spot­light dur­ing the 2012 Lon­don Olympics.

Ath­letic tap­ing is the process of ap­ply­ing tape di­rectly to the skin in or­der for bones and mus­cles to main­tain a sta­ble po­si­tion dur­ing ath­letic ac­tiv­ity.

Pro­po­nents claimed that the tap­ing re­duces mus­cle pain and aids in in­jury re­cov­ery.

The gen­eral goals of ath­letic tap­ing are to re­strict the mo­tion of in­jured joint to pro­tect it from re-in­jury as well as pro­tect the in­jured part while heal­ing, com­press soft tis­sues to re­duce swelling, sup­port anatom­i­cal struc­ture in­volved in the in­jury, and serve to se­cure a splint, dress­ing or ban­dages.

Un­for­tu­nately, re­search con­ducted so far on the effects of tap­ing have been in­con­clu­sive.

So why did Lee in­sist on sport­ing the tape? My guess is – the placebo ef­fect.

I am won­der­ing what would be the next new thing in Tokyo 2020? Have you ever heard of Kegel control for bet­ter core per­for­mance? I’m putting my money on butt plugs!

Let’s be fit!

Jonathan Tan is the club man­ager of the Sports Toto Fit­ness Cen­tre at Ber­jaya Times Square. He can be con­tacted at life­style.jonathan@the­sundaily.com.

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