Category Archives: Everything for Rugby

Should Kids be Eating the Same Foods as Adults?

Kid Adult NutritionWhilst there has long been something of a tradition in the UK of feeding kids the same food that adults eat, the question is often asked whether this overlooks the fact that children’s nutritional needs are actually quite different from those of a fully grown adult. Are we damaging our kids by expecting them to eat the same meals as us?

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Nutrition to optimise your performance

Nutrition DuringFood and drink are the fuel that we use to power our bodies and so they make an enormous difference to energy and performance. There are plenty of information sources on what to eat and drink before sport, but what about in the midst of a match or event itself?

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Unusual sports to try!

UnderwaterHockeyWhilst there’s no doubt that football and rugby remain some of the most popular sports in the UK – and around the world – there are many other options when it comes to getting active than simply kicking a ball around a pitch or over a goal post. In fact, there is a whole different side to sports that most people are completely unaware of with a raft of unusual options just waiting to pique the interest of sports fans looking for something a bit different to play and watch.

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What should you be eating after sport?


Anyone with a serious interest in sport knows that nutrition is an important part of achievement. This is especially the case when it comes to taking care of your body after you compete or train, whether you are getting involved in sport in order to compete on an amateur level, professionally or simply to lose weight and get fit. Whilst a lot of attention is paid to what sports people eat before sport and exercise, it’s also very important to remember to refuel afterwards, as this will affect recovery and the ability to train over and over again.

What you need to consume, and when you need to consume it, will depend on the kind of activity that you have undertaken, how long the activity lasted and how intense it was. For workouts lasting longer than an hour and a half it’s important to replace lost minerals and carbohydrates through something like a sports drink or a nutrition gel – you can either buy sports drinks or make them yourself from a high juice squash with a quarter teaspoon of salt added.

Carbohydrates are particularly important after exercise and should be taken in within 15 minutes after the end of a session to help get glycogen levels back to normal. In order to sustain glycogen stores for ongoing training 0.3-0.6 grams of carbohydrate is required for every pound of body weight within two hours after finishing exercise – after that time only half the amount of glycogen is stored in the muscles. However, eating carbohydrates alone is not enough and research has shown that those who eat both carbohydrates and protein – at a ratio of 4:1 – (four grams carbohydrate and one gram of protein) have 100% greater muscle glycogen than those who ate only carbohydrates. If you’re wondering what all the fuss about glycogen is, it’s the source of the energy that we need for ongoing exercise.

As well as being required for glycogen, protein is important for the amino acids that are needed to help your body recover from exercise, increasing the absorption of water and helping rebuild any muscle tissue damaged during the exercise process. These amino acids can also help boost the immune system, building up better resistance to common colds and keeping you healthier.

Eating a well-balanced meal is essential within 30 minutes to an hour after finishing exercise – or if this is not possible a snack that combines protein and carbohydrate is a good alternative. A carbohydrate and protein sports bar, a fruit smoothie, a handful of nuts and dried fruit or a carton or two of yoghurt will all give you the right balance for that essential refuelling.

Sport is an essential part of a happy and healthy childhood and Activate Sport runs some fantastic sports camps that encourage children to compete, get fit and learn how to look after themselves. Find out more information on our coaching courses.

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How has technology changed sport?

Technology in Sport

Technology has had a huge influence on the modern world, across most industries – and sport is no different. Particularly over the past two decades there have been some cutting edge developments that have demonstrated just how much technology and sport go hand in hand, in terms of training, fan participation and handling issues that might arise during a game or match.

For athletes and sportswomen and men, technological advances and breakthroughs constantly provide the opportunity to be better, faster, stronger and more competitive. Clothing, equipment and footwear is now designed incorporating technology and with specific sports in mind, from the full bodysuits swimmers wear that can shave valuable seconds of a race time, to racquets that can help prevent tennis elbow. Training has been made much more effective by the ability to monitor and analyse progress and technique, whether through a full professional set up or something as simple as an app for an iPad. Recovery is also much speedier now, thanks to technological advances, and athletes can use developments such as hypoxic tents – which simulate high altitude training – to push their bodies to the peak of physical fitness, instant response and fast recovery.

For the fans, social media has introduced an entirely new dimension to sport, with athletes and sports people taking to Twitter and Facebook before and after games to drum up excitement, provide their opinions on a match or post behind the scenes images. London 2012 was a great example of how much more spectator participation this generated with 10 million tweets alone during the opening ceremony. Large screen technology – both at home and in stadiums and sports venues – helps fans to engage more with sports people and teams and the ability to record live matches means that none are ever missed. When it comes to the sports themselves, technology has been instrumental too in improving accuracy and fairness, from Hawkeye use in cricket, to goal line technology used in football and the ability to accurately umpire tennis challenges.

Of course, for some all this technology destroys some of the mystery of sport and allows it to be picked apart too much. Social media abuse of swimmer Tom Daley during the Olympics was a sad side effect of the fact that technology allows everyone to be a pundit, however malicious, and for some the accuracy of goal line technology and the like reduces the element of excitement and chance every good game should have. Some have speculated that technology in sport means that children fail to learn valuable life lessons and, arguably, watching sport on a big screen takes away some of the excitement of the live match.

However, no matter how much technology intrudes into sport, at its heart we think it will always remain the pure joy of that burst of physical activity, the spirit of competition and gamesmanship, and a great way to learn discipline and skill.

In order to help pass the joy of sport onto future generations Activate Sport runs exciting academies and camps for kids including everything from cricket to hockey. For more information on inspiring future sports stars please check the site.

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Zing Performance: A Revolution in Mental Training (Part 2 of 2)

Zing performance2

In Part 1 of this series of two blogs we introduced the exciting new partnership that has been established between Zing Performance and Activate Sport. The culmination of the partnership will be that 20 children from our Activate Sport courses will be able to take part in the six-month training course provided by Zing that will enable them to increase their brain function – to ‘rewire’ the brain in order to increase performance, endurance, coordination and commitment – to produce a better overall sporting and academic performance.

The science behind the Zing performance method is based on the signals that are sent to and from various parts of the brain during sport. The motor command (the message to a muscle to contract) for a sporting movement is sent from the motor cortex of the brain to the muscles, and at the same time a duplicate of this command is sent to something called the ‘hind brain.’ The hind brain then takes this command and generates a prediction of what should happen, which is based on those that have gone before – i.e. what typically happens when the action is attempted.

When the muscles move in accordance with the motor command, the somato-sensory cortex receives feedback which is compared with what was predicted by the hind brain, and notes any discrepancies for future reference. The predictions made by the hind brain create an ‘internal model’ which is continually adjusted based on the discrepancies between what actually happened and the prediction. This is the process of accumulating ‘experience’ which is then built into a skill.

The key part of the Zing Performance method is based in the hind brain and the fact that when the command is sent to the muscles the hind brain will send its own message to the muscles based on what has happened when that action was attempted before – and then adjust the response/action. In most people’s brains that essential adjustment from the hind brain to the muscles isn’t getting there in time so that the same mistakes are made over and over again and a weakness remains. Zing identifies which links are missing and creates a personalised plan to ensure that the right adjustments are made to ensure ongoing improvement and increased performance.

Zing’s research has proven that by retraining the brain to make those missing links, physical activities can be carried out more effectively as the neurological pathways are strengthened and retrained. The result is faster performance, better communication between brain and body and longer periods of concentration. For example, Zing can help cricketers achieve better concentration when fielding and sharper timing when batting, as well as improving the general communication between players. In rugby, it boosts player confidence, coordination, balance and reaction speed, and in athletics it provides track composure and confidence, increases reaction speed and steadies balance. Click here to discover how Zing helped one golfer to reduce her handicap from 24 to 7 in a matter of weeks.

We will be posting a follow up blog with the results from the 6-month training being undertaken so that we can demonstrate just how effective the system is. In the meantime if you would like any information on any Activate Sport courses, please see our website.

Zing Performance: A Revolution in Mental Training (Part 1 of 2)

Zing Performance

Activate Sport is excited to announce a new partnership that it has established with Zing Performance, an organisation that uses science to help increase brain function in academic, work and sport situations. In a sporting context Zing focuses on the fact that great athletes – or even simply those who want to get the most out of sport – need great coaching. However, no matter how professional the coaching, every athlete also needs the brainpower to be able to retain and use what is taught during those coaching sessions.

Research has proven that by performing certain physical activities, the neurological pathways in the brain can be strengthened and re-trained to function more effectively – this makes the learning and recalling of many types of skill far easier. Like with any muscle in the body, the brain needs to be exercised so that it can work at its optimum level. That’s where Zing comes in, giving the brain a thorough workout enabling the brain to work more efficiently

Zing doesn’t do coaching but develops the brain to enable it to, learn, retain and recall key skills quickly and consistently when they are required. Its aim is one of ‘fundamentally rewiring’ the brain – something that was thought not previously possible – to deliver fantastic results. These results impact in areas such as the speed with which skills and knowledge are picked up, in improving concentration and reducing mental tiring and being able to recall training quicker. Zing can benefit consistency, coordination, spatial awareness and areas that affect composure i.e. those things that affect ‘your game’ and require a calm response. In addition to benefiting sporting performance, Zing can have a profound affect on academic performance too, where concentration, retention and consistency are also vital elements.

Enormous improvements and benefits can be had from rewiring the brain in this way – but how does it work? Essentially, Zing offers a course of physical activities sent to the participant to access via a smartphone, tablet or computer. Activities are carried out for just 5-10mins a few times a day for around six months and will rewire fundamental areas of the brain in order to see lasting changes in the way the brain functions with respect to participating in sport. Every four weeks during the course, the brain is assessed to see where progress is being made and because the course is personalised, suggested improvements are tailored to the individual to enable them to reach that end goal.

From the 1st of September, Zing Performance launches Zing Junior Sport, a remarkable new course designed to develop both agility and ability skills in the brain. As part of the partnership between Activate Sport and Zing performance, 20 children from Activate Sport courses will be able to participate for free in the six-month training programme with Zing. We are enormously excited to see the results that are achieved by this innovative new training system, particularly when it comes to young and impressionable brains that are just are the right stage to be ‘wired’ for success in sport, and in a broader context of life in general. If you’d like to know more about Activate Sport or Zing Performance please see our website.

Free Summer Holiday Activities to do at home

Kid Cupcake

Schools out for summer! And whilst for the kids that might mean the relief of no homework, no maths and no boring lessons until September, for parents around the country keeping everyone entertained all day every day can feel like a great big project in itself. However, with a bit of imagination and a few basic pieces of equipment, there are plenty of great summer holiday activities to do at home that won’t cost a fortune.

Getting culinary – most kids enjoy cooking with their parents, as it’s a great one to one activity that is pretty cheap to do, and which best of all results in a tasty treat. You don’t have to get too involved in recipes and ingredients for this to be fun – something as simple as making orange juice ice lollies, creating fruit shapes, creating cornflake refrigerator cakes, or even dreaming up a new sandwich filling can be an entertaining and productive way to spend a few hours. If your children are too old for the delights of licking the spoon then why not try teaching them an actual skill – for example, how to make the perfect pastry base for a summer tart, baking bread, or creating different types of healthy smoothies.

Getting active – over the summer holidays kids often run out of ways to burn off all that energy so active pastimes are an ideal way to keep them entertained, and get them tired enough to slow down and rest afterwards. Whether it’s an in-house table tennis tournament, a volleyball net in the back garden, teaching teens the benefits of yoga or pilates, or a fun Bollywood dancing session, there are lots of different ways for all the family to get active together at home over the summer.

Getting creative – some of the best summer holiday home based activities are those where you have something to show for all that effort at the end of it. Growing cress or creating a window bag in which kids can watch the process of beans sprouting and growing can be fascinating for younger children, and for those who have a bit more dexterity, why not try learning a new skill together, such as origami. For teens who have an interest in fashion it can be an inspiring experience to be shown how to sew and create clothes for yourself, and if your kids show an interest in painting or drawing then why not set them up with a little easel and give them a still life scene to sketch or paint – you might discover you have the next Picasso in your midst.

There are plenty of options when it comes to the summer holidays, few of which mean that kids have to sit inside in front of the TV or on laptops or games consoles. Although it might seem a bit daunting at first, entertaining the kids at home over the summer can also be hugely enjoying for parents too!

Activate sport run summer camps for kids aged 7-16 across the country in a variety of sports and multi-sport styles, from dancing to cricket. Our camps are a great way to help kids learn new skills and get active, and give parents a bit of respite from providing the entertainment too – see our website for more details.

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Do we put too much pressure on young stars?

Jessica Judd

In an era when sporting success is expected at a much younger age and the winning is often much more important than the taking part, there is a lot more pressure on young sporting stars to start hitting milestones much earlier. This pressure comes from a whole range of different sources, including a media that glorifies only winners and winning, ambitious coaches, other members of the team and friends and family who, whilst all they want is for a young sportsman or woman to succeed, may not realise how much that adds to the pressure they are already under.

Evidence has emerged from scientific studies showing that young sportspeople are burning out at an early age when trying to reach impossible goals they have been set. Symptoms such as exhaustion and serious disillusionment with the sport they are trying to succeed in can result in a devaluation of commitment to the sport. These symptoms come from gruelling training regimes, which are often being enforced onto fairly underdeveloped bodies, incredibly busy schedules that leave little time for socialising or down time, and being pushed to be stronger, faster and better at a younger age than those who have gone before. Particularly in hugely competitive sports such as football, high standards are expected from the start and those young athletes who don’t make the grade are simply culled.

This level of stress can have both a positive and a negative effect, depending on the character of the individual. On the positive side, such pressure at an early age can build confidence and coping mechanisms, can be incredibly motivational and can encourage young athletes to reach ever higher and further. On the negative side it can cause an over emphasis on perfectionism and an inability to deal with failure, as well as achieving ‘too much too soon,’ leaving the athlete with little to aim for, or with serious physical injuries from too much training.

A recent example of the dangers of over hype is Freddy Adu a footballer who plays for Bahia in Brazil and who was named ‘the new Pele’ because of his phenomenal skill. However, already his performances in matches is failing to match up to the headlines, something that many commentators are attributing to the pressure created by the hype around him. Rob Denmark, coach to athlete Jessica Judd (pictured above), who has recently seen some fantastic successes said of his coaching responsibility “it’s more important to lay the foundations now for her to develop and be successful in the long term,” indicating that low pressure long term development is his coaching method of choice.

Where stress is kept under control, at every level sport can have a really beneficial impact on children’s’ development, increasing fitness, confidence and keeping weight under control, as well as developing motivation and helping children learn how to achieve goals. Activate Sport runs a series of sports camps that offer some great physical and mental benefits for children of all ages. See our website for more information.

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How the Professional Era Has Changed Rugby

Professional rugby game v Harlequins and Saracens

When a sport ‘goes professional’ this always tends to mean big changes, no matter what the game. With the arrival of professionalism into rugby union in 1995, it became the last sport to move out of the realms of amateurs and to join the pro game. There are plenty of opinions on whether or not the move was a good one, but what have the changes introduced by the professional era actually meant for the game?

Perhaps one of the biggest changes that the professional era introduced was the raising of standards in terms of player health and fitness. With players now career professionals, there has been a significant move away from the days of hungover Sunday league games, to much more of a focus on winning matches, rather than just turning up and taking part. In fact, winning is now the main focus for teams, as with the introduction of professionalism have come the commercial advantages for successful clubs – sponsorship, hospitality and television revenues to name but a few. Players must train harder, be more tactically aware, ensure they are permanently match fit and not compromised by lifestyle in order to maintain their place in the team and ensure the club has a successful season.

Whilst 20 years ago, players may have had bulk (which could have been provided via a beer belly as much as a regular weights and fitness sessions) and still survive 80 minutes on the pitch, an overweight under fit player is rarely seen in professional rugby these days. According to Harlequins and England No.8 Nick Easter the new professional player must have ‘pure power and physicality’ and most training diets are now focused on carb injections around training sessions, protein and water or green tea, rather than pints and pies.

In terms of the effect on the game itself, the better condition of the players has undoubtedly resulted in a faster game and the need to win, in a more tactical approach. Unfortunately commercialisation has also brought with it the odd scandal, such as ‘Bloodgate’ in the 2009 Heineken Cup, where Harlequins used fake blood capsules to facilitate a tactical substitution. Overall, however, most fans have seemed pleased with the gritty determination of their team to climb higher in the league, rather than simply to make it through the game and get to the pub afterwards. Of course there are those who would highlight that the introduction of wages has meant players have lost a sense of home club loyalty, that the local aspect of games has gone and that players now follow the money instead, but this was bound to be a consequence of the introduction of professionalism, in the same way as it affected the game of football, and for the majority of fans the experience of watching the game has simply gotten better.

If you have a budding Lee Dickson or Tom May in the family, or you just want to introduce your kids to the fun and tactics of rugby for the first time, Activate Sport’s Everything 4 Rugby camps are the ideal way to do it. During the week-long camp, kids can learn everything from scrums to rucking and mauling, and have a great time doing it. See our website for more information.

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