Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Conference on Women and Sport 2010

Pic credit Edith Cowan University - Surf Science course.
Sunshine in Ireland means getting outdoors right now because it might rain tomorrow! But I finally found the time to find out what happened at the World Conference on Women and Sport a few weeks ago. It’s always good to lift the head past the fun and sweat to see what's going on behind the scenes. Main topics for discussion at this year's conference were: 
  • Women, sport and human rights
  • Financing and media for gender equality in sport
  • Physical activity and health for women
  • Sport and social change
  • Engaging Generation Y and Z in sport and physical activity
I loved the optimistic speech from Italian National Olympic Committee member Novella Calligaris who was the first female sports commentator in Italy (30 years ago). She said: “Sport, thanks to women, has above all gained considerable ground in daily newspapers and non-specialist magazines. Space dedicated to our female champions is often greater than coverage given to their male counterparts. Indeed, in sports magazines only male football has absolute priority.” Sadly this isn’t quite true in every country but it’s a great aim to have!

You can read/listen to more from the conference website IWG. What would you like to hear about at a conference like this?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Punch Like A Girl

Well, you could also ask - does it matter? But from what I can see, being told 'you punch like a girl' is still reserved for sloppy punching. Of course it's impossible to exactly compare across the sexes but assuming similar training background and size you could draw a few surprising conclusions. 

This video has Dutch fighter Lucia Rijker - undefeated in 54 fights over kickboxing and boxing taking up the challenge for the TV show Sport Science against a male MMA fighter. You might remember her from Million Dollar Baby when she sends Hilary Swank's character crashing into That stool. There's more than a little hype in this video but interesting technical info on how we punch and a controversial result.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Dr Jessie Stone, Kayaker and Doctor

Sometimes doing sport can be just a little selfish. It’s all about my muscle mass, my diet, my training sessions...well you get the picture. So eventually most athletes find time to (warning! Sport cliché on the way) give it back. Dr. Jessie Stone, kayaker and medic has found a more dramatic way than most to combine her passions for the water with her work. 

Long a fan of the extreme rivers in Uganda, Stone was paddling on the White Nile when she had a real look at the village where she was staying. She probably knew that the Ministry of Health there estimates that 320 people die daily from malaria. So Stone took that slightly uncomfortable guilt-feeling we all get traveling in developing countries and acted on it. These days along with competing as a freestyle kayaker, she runs a mosquito net education and distribution programme on the Nile.

The film clip above is from Nomads, which tells her story and was made by another kayaking fanatic – Polly Green. You can read more about Dr. Stone’s project at Soft Power Health.

Do you know about any other Sports Samaritans?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Talking with Caley Lewis, Muay Thai fighter

Western Australia doesn’t exactly loom large for people in Europe or the States but one of my favourite Muay Thai fighters lives in Perth. Caley Lewis successfully defended her WMC Intercontintenal title this weekend and also holds the WPMF World title and WMC Australian title. Lewis has an inspiring mental attitude towards her sport which has helped her get over some terrible injuries – including a badly dislocated shoulder which could have been the kiss of death for someone doing an extreme sport.

When I talked to her for International Kickboxer she was positive and really focused on how mental power gets you through training and fighting at an elite level. She says: “I think any athlete that knows that mental preparation is just as important as the physical. You can be as fit as a fiddle going into a fight but it can go pear shaped if you aren’t there mentally. Your body goes into autopilot in the ring as you have trained for it. Going over the fight before you enter the ring is crucial to your prep. Knowing that you can do your best and knowing that you are the best you can be is the way you have to think. Any negative thoughts leading up to a fight can really alter the way you perform.”

She’s trains at Riddler’s Gym in Perth and of course over in Thailand. This is the handy benefit of training in a sport which is the national sport in another country – lots of justified time on holidays. Not that you get much time to rest over there. Lewis says: “The training is good and you become so much fitter and better from only having your training to worry about. Because Darren (trainer in Aus) lived there for so long our training is very similar but because you train twice a day for hours at a time, you improve so much.”

She praises her sports psychologist as much as her actual trainers which is probably the biggest different between training Muay Thai in western countries and doing it in purely in Thailand. The mix of knowledge from western and eastern approaches is what brings on the belts and titles.

What mental techniques do you use in training or fitness work?


Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Women Breaking Records in Sport

Surf kayker from Dave Young on Flickr
Reading this month that Stephanie Gilmore is the first woman surfer on the cover of Transworld magazine, made me want to know what other firsts are going on out there for women in sport.

You could be negative and wonder why these barriers ever existed but better to keep on knocking them and finding new ways to have fun!

Some memorable firsts:
1.    1970s – first sanctioned women’s Muay Thai fights in Thailand. Then a big break until 1997.
2.    2005 – Eileen Murphy is the first woman to kayak around Ireland
3.    February 1994. First women boxers in a sanctioned amateur fight in the USA
4.    Maya Gaberira - first professional female Big Wave surfer (as far as I know!)
5.    October 2001. First women boxers in a sanctioned amateur fight in Ireland
6.    Katherine Switzer and Roberta Gibb were the first women to run a marathon in 1972 – literally fighting  off the officials who tried to stop them. Switzer’s running mates body-blocked the officials 
7.    1995 – Alison Hargreaves was the first woman to climb Everest unaided. Tragically she later died climbing K2.
8.    2004 – Beezie Madden becomes the first woman show jumper to rank in the world’s Top Three.
9.    Olympic firsts include 2012 for women’s boxing, 1948 for kayaking, 1984 for the marathon and 1900  for the first female Olympians.
10.    The first Olympic sports open to women were yachting, equestrian events, croquet, tennis, golf and ballooning.

Do you know of any other firsts for women doing sport?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Talking with Steph Twell, Long-distance Runner

Steph Twell, pic courtesty Nikewomen UK.

Do you ever wonder what goes into wining an Olympic Gold medal? 

Talking to Steph Twell, three times European Junior Cross Country champion and nominated European Athletics Rising Star, you quickly realize that training, training and training is the secret. 

When I talked to Twell, she had just run a PB in the Gurnsey Half Marathon clocking in at 1:11:56. She said:
“I felt so strong, got quicker and quicker as the miles ticked off. I love the longer distances – it’s mind over matter. That’s what I love.” 
Her training plan interested me as she doesn’t have a set Rest Day – she goes hard, listens to her body and then rests when something feels off. She says: “It’s the best way to schedule them in. Say you don’t feel tired on the set day but you might feel tired on Wednesday, so it’s best to take it then.” 

Why race?
And she had a few things to say about women in racing too: “It hurts – to use your body. But I think that girls are pushing up on male standards. You used to hear that girls were not strong enough or not fast enough but that’s changing now.” She holds Paula Radcliffe up as her inspiration. Radcliffe, a British marathoner, ran the fastest UK marathon time in 2003 – leaving the boys behind as well.

But the one thing she comes back to again and again is having aspirations and dreams, something to drive towards in training. Twell started her career in cross-country, and while making the Great Britain team is impressive enough, Twell says: “All my track performances were made possible by making the GB teams for cross-country. I wouldn’t have had the aspiration to make it on the world stage, being on that team was the first stepping stone to where I am now. “ And no doubt to where she will be.

You can read more from this interview in Life and Fitness mag

What inspires you to keep going?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Iron and the Female Athlete

Quinoa with spinach and shrimp pic from Gudlyf
So one of the joys of doing lots of sport is that you don’t have to join in with the treadmill of dieting and worrying about eating too much chocolate. Unless of course you’re eating too little to keep your energy levels up. It’s a fine line between healthy eating and too little, especially for anyone doing weight-category sports where an extra 100g can make all the difference. 

Getting enough iron is one of the biggest worries. Sports Dieticians, Australia recommend that female athletes need 1.3 – 1.7 times more iron than a civilian. How come? Oxygen – low levels of iron means less oxygen in the body, means less power means decreased performance. Not good. It’s hard to tell when you’re lacking in iron as the symptoms are vague – tired, not training properly, difficulty concentrating, getting colds easily. SDA pinpoint four areas where athletes are more likely to lose blood than others:

  1. Injury or blood noses
  2. Marathon runners and other ultra-endurance athletes sometimes lose blood through the digestive tract or urine
  3. Wearing unsuitable trainers causes foot strike damage to the red blood cells in the feet, especially when running on hard surfaces too – like road running
  4. Heavy sweating
Combining animal (haem iron) and plant sources (non-haem iron) of iron is the most effective way to get enough. Plus sip on a Vitamin C rich drink and avoid tea/coffee at meal times! To get an idea of how much you should eat, think of this table when you’re cooking:
Almonds 1 handful   0.05mg          Eggs 2 small 0.08mg
Spinach ½ cup        0.1mg            Chicken 100g 0.1mg
Pork 100g              0.2mg            Tuna 100g 0.3mg
Lamb 100g            0.5mg             Steak 100g 0.7mg
(source: Womens Health, July 08)

What do you eat to keep your energy up?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Talking with Angela Parr, Muay Thai fighter

Mexican-American Angela Parr combines a successful MuayThai career with motherhood - not two careers which often go hand in hand. Starting in California, she now fights out of Brisbane, Australia and trains with her fighter husband John 'Wayne' Parr. Competing in this sport now for 13 years she won a Gold medal in the IAMTF world championships in Thailand and went on to fight professionally at home in the States and down in Australia.
There comes a time in any athlete's life when you wonder "Is this it? time to stop?" Women often find that balancing training with raising children  is a juggling act but Angela is proof it's not impossible. Watch her above prepare for a fight against Nicole 'Pixie' Brolin in February 2010. Enjoy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sweat and the City

Anyone else fed-up of hearing about the Four Girls that we should be? I've read so many 'which one are you?' articles but the whole shopping, food, high heels and panic attacks because your Manalos don’t match your Pucci just doesn’t fit in with my life.
Now if I were a Sweat and the City girl, this is who I would be:

  1. Moire O’ Sullivan – Irish long-distance mountain runner including 23 hours for the Wicklow Round in Ireland, 71 km Ultra Run in Nepal and 12-hour Adventure run in Vietnam. Yes, she ran over the Himalayas. She blogs about her races at Running Over Mountains and Around the World 
  2. Mountain running Ireland Moire O Sullivan
    Moire O Sullivan Mountain Runner 

  3. Easkey Britton – One of Ireland’s top surfers, she holds 4 national titles, won the Roxy UK Pro, 13th in the World Surfing Games. But competing against other humans isn’t enough, she was towed in on the huge waves at Mullaghmore, Ireland. Great photos on her site Easkey Britton
  4. Easkey Britton surfing women
    Easkey Britton, Surfer 

  5. Jackie Ferguson, Irish surf kayaker, 7th in the World Championships 09, and a big fan of the waves out west in Ireland. Some great photos and videos on her blog Jackie Onassis.
kayaking women jackie ferguson
Jackie Ferguson, Kayak Surfer

  1. Katie Taylor – Irish amateur boxer, unbeaten over 42 fights and plays soccer for Ireland in her spare time. Twice world champion and three times European champion, she’s hoping for gold in the first ever Olympic event for Women’s Boxing in 2012. read more on her site Katie Taylor

womens boxing Katie Taylor Ireland Olympics
Katie Taylor, Boxer 
Who would you name as your four Sweat and the City girls?

*All images taken from the above blogs/sites.