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Sunday
Nov152009

The Physical Energy Spectrum

       For each of the wide variety of activities that we compete and perform in, there is an appropriate energy state.  Some activities require minimal physical energy, but lots of precision, analysis, and/or strategy. For example, games like chess and poker require only endurance on the physical side, but make large mental demands. On the other hand, some activities demand much less from the brain, but a total commitment with the body. A tug 'o war is a distillation of this, though more common activities, such as blocking in football or power-lifting are good examples that require a high power output mixed with some need for adjustment and strategy.

       The trick with any sport is to maintain the appropriate energy level. High energy (typically corresponding with a high heart rate and elevated muscle tension) leads to increased power, but less motor control and more commitment to each movement, so that adjusting to changing circumstances is more difficult. The chart below gives some estimates about how various sport activities compare. Many sports have varying requirements because they either combine quick, powerful movements with precise targeting (passing in football), or there are different elements in the given sports that require different energy levels at different times (The classic example of this is the Olympic Biathalon, which demands high energy for cross-country skiing, and extreme precision for rifle shooting.).

 Optimal Energy Chart

    This chart gives some rough ideas for comparing various activities and the energy required to perform each. With most sports, there is a wide variation from moment to moment, but the first chart can help us recognize which sport activities require the highest or lowest amount of energy. The chart on the second page gives a range of energy levels for tennis. Any sport can be broken down to show the variation within (The first chart has lines connecting some related activities.). In most cases, the upper left corner represents activities which are best performed with a high energy level, so elevating one's heart rate will aid one's performance. The lower right corner is populated by activities for which a performer should seek to reduce their energy level for maximum concentration and precision.

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