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Chapter 11 - Methods Used to Enhance Athletic Performance ____________________________________________________________________________________

Biorhythms ______________________________________________

You would probably be hard pressed to convince many people that biorhythms don’t have a significant impact on human performance. In fact, many people now believe that biorhythms may be one of the missing links that explains human behavior. The impact of biorhythmic effects is being felt in just about every walk of life, from medicine to aviation to education to science. Not surprisingly, a great deal of interest also exits concerning the interrelationship of sports and biorhythms. Some people, including athletes, schedule their entire life around biorhythms. In case you have been living in a cave for the last decade, let me try to explain to you what biorhythms are and how they supposedly work. According to biorhythm theory, each individual has three body cycles which regulate physical strength, emotion, and intelligence…a twenty three day physical stamina cycle, a twenty eight day emotional cycle, and a thirty three day intellectual cycle. These cycles are assumed to be determined at birth and to be invariant throughout life. According to the theory, the cycles have the following effects: during the positive phase of the twenty three day physical- cycle we are stronger, have greater endurance, and are more resistant to disease. During the negative phase, the reverse is true. Similarly, during the positive phase of the twenty eight day cycle of emotional sensitivity, we feel more positive optimistic, and creative, whereas we are most irritable, withdrawn, and pessimistic during the negative phase. With respect to the thirty three day intellectual cycle, thinking is clearer and more decisive during the positive phase, whereas the opposite is true during the negative phase. If you don’t understand what I am talking about, fake take it, because there is no way I can make this stuff any easier. Either way, don’t worry, because they have computers that will calculate all this stuff for you. Moving right along, biorhythm cycles have the patterns sine waves. More confused, right? Like I said, fake it. Since they have different durations, they coincide at times, but arc in opposition at other times. The so called critical days for each cycle occur at the beginning and middle of each cycle, when the phase changes direction from positive to negative, or vice versa. On these days, we are in a transition state and as a result, we are most vulnerable. We are weaker, more likely to become emotionally disturbed, and make more mistakes. Proponents of the biorhythm theory claim that an individual can use his knowledge of what biorhythmic phase he is in to compensate for low periods. That is, he could be more careful, undertake less demanding tasks, or avoid strenuous activities during that


Chapter 11 - Methods Used to Enhance Athletic Performance ____________________________________________________________________________________

time. On the other hand, he could take advantage of his peaks by scheduling appropriately challenging activities. The idea of using biorhythms to predict athletic performance has received considerable attention in recent years by many sports researchers. They reason that if the theory of biorhythms is a valid indicator of athletic performance, the method could be used to schedule training sessions, competition, and postcompetition rest periods. For instance, by observing his biorhythmic cycle, an athlete could arrange his competitions so that they coincide with the positive phase of his physical cycle. The question is, “Are biorhythms a valid method for predicting human behavior and/or performance? With respect to athletes, proponents of the method have attempted to show that athletes who achieve success are usually at a biorhythmic high point, while athletes who fail are usually at a critical time during their cycle. Interestingly, the proponents of biorhythm presented some convincing cases to substantiate their theory. With respect to athletics, they attempt to show that people who were successful were at a biorhythmic high point, and that those who failed were at a critical day. For instance, when Ken Norton broke Muhammad Ali’s jaw on March 31, 1973, his biorhythms were near critical for both his physical and emotional cycles, while Norton’s bio-cycles were all on the positive side. The reverse was true when Ali beat the doodoo out of Joe Frazier on May 25, 1975 in the “Thrilla in Manila.” Ali was on a physical high while Frazier was at his lowest physical point. Similar biorhythmic links were found in the Leonard-Hagler fight, the Spinks-Holmes fight, the Ali’s bio-cycles were all on the positive side when he beat Tyson-Tubbs fight, and the the doodoo out of Joe Frazier. Tyson-Spinks fight. And that’s just the tip of the biorhythmic iceberg. Biorhythm advocates have presented some extremely convincing cases in the sports of baseball, basketball, football, auto racing, track and field, weightlifting, and the list goes on. Opponents of biorhythms feel that this type of case study approach to verification is simply a matter of selecting cases which fit the theory and ignoring cases which do not. This is technically known in the world of research as sampling bias. In laymen’s terms, it’s like stacking the deck. Still, to the non-scientific world you know, (the guys who think that a placebo is an Italian dessert) the presentation of such cases gives the impression that biorhythms are indeed a powerful instrument. Another interesting point is that hardly anyone advocating biorhythms reports negative results or occurrences. Is it because such instances do not exist? If you believe that, I have a bridge in Brooklyn I am selling that I want you to look at. I mean, let’s be real, are we to assume that biorhythms are so powerful that they outweigh all other influences so as to dismiss negative instances? That is, instances where people who were biorhythmically high, but performed low, or were biorhythmically low, but performed high? Some supporters who discover negative instances argue that the individuals involved would have done even worse (or better as the case may be) if it were not for their biorhythmic state. This, of course,


Chapter 11 - Methods Used to Enhance Athletic Performance ____________________________________________________________________________________

reeks of 20/20 hindsight. In other words, one must be able to independently determine biorhythms rather than use them as after the fact explanations. If this is not done, it is impossible to prove the theory wrong. All scientific theories must lend themselves to scientific testing and scrutiny. Also, the relationship between biorhythms and behavior, if they exist, may simply be a mater of coincidence rather than cause and effect. Just because two events consistently happen at the same time, is no proof that one causes the other. A third variable may be causing both, or perhaps what one thinks is the cause is really the effect. For instance, success may actually enhance physiological function and/or performance and failure may very well be responsible for impaired body function rather than the other way around. Now I know what you’re thinking; “Is there any research out there that’s worth the paper it’s written on?” Well, I’ve got good news for you. There’s not only good research in this area, there is GREAT research…research that was well thought out, ingeniously designed, and meticulously carried out. Some of the best research ever conducted in the field of bio-physiology. What extraordinary individual conducted this research, you ask? Who else…me! In the first study I published in 1981, I calculated the biorhythms for every pitcher who played for the Kansas City Royals, the Pittsburgh Pirates, and the Cincinnati Reds from 1970 to 1980. I tried to find a relationship between the pitcher’s rhythms and various criteria measures such as the pitcher’s ERA, the number of pitches thrown for strikes versus those thrown for balls, etc. etc. No matter what criterion I used, I found no relationship strong enough to be used as a predictor of athletic performance. A similar three year study involving the Kansas City Royals rookie league team revealed similar results. In the latter study, I even used coach’s ratings as a criterion measure…still, no significant relationship. Interestingly, Dr. James Fix conducted a series of similar studies with major league baseball players. His findings were in accord with mine, indicating that biorhythms had no effect on the player’s performance…smart guy. About a year later, I conducted two other studies on biorhythms using AAU powerlifters. In the first study, I had twenty four novice powerlifters calculate their own biorhythms and I correlated these rhythms with their daily performance. The results of the study revealed an extremely high relationship (.89) between the rhythms and lifting performance. This finding suggested that the biorhythms were a valid predictor of weightlifting performance. I was encouraged. In fact, I thought I had discovered something big. I immediately set up another study. When you are hot, you’re hot. This time, I had thirty one novice powerlifters, but instead of letting them calculate their own biorhythms, I computed them. I calculated two sets of rhythms, a true set and a pseudo set for each lifter. The pseudo-biorhythms were computed so that they would read directly opposite of the true rhythms. When the lifter’s true rhythms indicated a high physical period, the pseudo-rhythms indicated a low physical period. I gave the lifters what they believed were their real rhythms, but in reality they were the pseudo-rhythms. The lifters were unaware that two sets of rhythms existed, and that their performance was forecasted based on the pseudorhythms. I ran an analysis on both sets of rhythms and the Biorhythms may be nothing lifter’s daily workouts. Interestingly, the results revealed a more than a placebo. high correlation for the pseudo-biorhythms (.94) and only a moderate correlation (.61) for the true biorhythms. It seemed quite clear from the study that what was occurring was a type of placebo effect, which of course has nothing to do with Italian dessert. The pseudo-biorhythms had caused the subjects to lift poorly on days when they were supposedly at their physical peak. The rhythms also caused the subjects to lift well when they were supposedly at a physical low. In short, the belief in rhythms had caused fluctuation in performance. It was concluded that the subjects own minds brought about the changes in performance, not their rhythms. Given the current findings, it would seem foolish for an athlete to postpone competition just because his biorhythm chart indicated a critical day, unless of course, in his own mind he was so convinced of the overriding importance of biorhythms that the very expectation would be self-fulfilling.


Chapter 11 - Methods Used to Enhance Athletic Performance ____________________________________________________________________________________

Circadian Rhythms _____________________________________________________________

While I was researching the literature for studies on biorhythms, I discovered that most scientific research on body rhythms focused on rhythms of short duration such as the beating of the heart or breathing. I also found that some scientists have investigated longer rhythms such as the 90 minute sleep cycle and circadian rhythms (circadian from the Latin “circa” meaning around, and “dies” meaning a day). Although most of us are not aware of it, our bodies go through regular biorhythmic cycles each day. Our temperature, for example, is usually lowest in the middle of the night, begins to rise about the time we awaken, and continues to rise slightly for the first three hours we are awake. It remains relatively constant until we go to bed at night. This temperature change is very slight, usually no more than a degree or so, but it does seem to There is some evidence to indicate that diurnal occur in most of us. Just why this diurnal rhythms can affect strength and power. rhythm occurs, no one is really sure, but we do know that it takes place even in people who are totally inactive throughout the day. The ability to taste, smell, and hear also varies during the day, reaching its peak in most of us at the very odd hour of 3 a.m. A second peak in sensory ability usually occurs between 5 and 7 p.m., which may account for the fact that many of us prefer to eat our largest meal of the day. Interestingly, by plotting various circadian rhythms, chronobiologists can tell you the best time of the day to eat, sleep, relax, study, and exercise. There is considerable research that has revealed a high linear relationship between diurnal variation in strength and diurnal variation in body temperature readings. The higher the oral body temperature, the greater the strength scores. Of course, the closeness of the relationship does not establish cause and effect, but similar findings, in relation to dieting, endurance, intelligence, etc., tempts one to relate the two factors. Circadian patterns can be made to work for you, but you must first learn how to recognize them. Once you have familiarized yourself with your patterns, you can take advantage of chronobiology techniques to improve your health and productivity. The trick is to determine your circadian patterns or at least the patterns that correlate with the bodily function we are trying to improve. Luckily for athletes, strength correlates with oral body temperature, and oral body temperature is relatively easy to measure and plot. According to Charles Winget, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration research physiologist, your circadian patterns can be determined by the following method: First, take your temperature an hour after getting up in the morning and again at four hour intervals throughout the day. Schedule your last reading as close to bedtime as possible. This will give you five readings by the end of the day. After you’ve achieved the aforementioned, add your first, third, and fifth readings and record this total. Add your second and fourth readings and subtract this figure from the first total. The net sum will be an

We are strongest when our temperature is at its peak.


Chapter 11 - Methods Used to Enhance Athletic Performance ____________________________________________________________________________________

estimate of your body temperature in the middle of the night. Consider this your sixth reading. Next, plot all six readings on graph paper. Of course, the variations will be small, perhaps only one-tenth of a degree in some cases. However, you should realize that although the variations may be minuscule, they are significant. You will probably find that your temperature is lowest in the middle of the night, begins to rise about the time you awaken, and continues to rise slightly for the first three hours you are awake. By evening, your readings will start to drop, once again reaching its nadir, or low point, in the middle of the night. If you are going to use your circadian rhythms as a training aid, it is of paramount importance to ascertain your individual variations in temperature. Make every effort to get an accurate temperature reading for each hour interval of the day. Know when your temperature reaches its highest and lowest We are strongest when our points and when it is on the rise. temperature As previously mentioned, we are strongest and exhibit our greatest endurance whenis at ourits peak. temperature is at its peak. In most individuals, this peak will last approximately four hours. Consequently, you should schedule your workouts when your temperature is highest if you want maximum efficiency.

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Biorhythms Chapter 11 - Methods Used to Enhance Athletic Performance _______________________________________________________________________...

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