Friday 22 November 2019

Get active, girls -- and reap the rewards

Library Images. Photo: Getty Images
Library Images. Photo: Getty Images

The 2011 All-Ireland Camogie Finals took place yesterday at Croke Park. The senior game was a rematch of the 2010 final between defending champions Wexford and Galway. Last year, Wexford were the deserving champions. Watching from the Cusack Stand on that day last year, I could see that both teams were well prepared for the final -- and the year's efforts merited the few column inches they got the following day.

Female athletes rarely get the credit their efforts deserve. The All-Ireland final gives players the perfect opportunity to display their talents in front of the cameras. Throughout this season, I've been hoping things would turn out differently for Galway to how they did last year.

Maybe I'm biased -- my cousin Therese Maher has been a great ambassador for the female sports code and she has been on the Galway camogie team since 1997..

Sport teaches us some valuable lessons that can be applied to life. It can help build character but more often than not it reveals it. Your hard work on the training grounds at the start of the year will influence your outcome when the finals come in September.


Steven Covey, author of 'The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People', puts it best when he explains the "law of the harvest'. A farmer plants his crop in the autumn, and through constant work and nurturing he will reap a bountiful crop in the summer. A farmer cannot cheat nature and force the crop to mature earlier. The same is true with winning an All-Ireland. You cannot hope to be successful when you have not laid the foundations in the previous months.

One of the biggest challenges faced by female sports is that young girls are starting to skip PE class and give up team sports too early. By the age of 16, the majority has given up on sports as the attraction of social activities, career and school activities proves too great.

Mothers and fathers of young children should encourage their children to stay active. Sports help develop the traits of discipline and determination as it requires the individuals to work as a team towards a common goal. It also helps improve social interaction and develop personal skills.

The females that have continued developing their skills deserve great credit. You have to admire the performances of the Irish female athletes like Deirdre Ryan, competing with the best of the world in the high jump; Derval O'Rourke, in the 100m hurdles; and Katie Taylor (left), who continues to overpower her opponents in the boxing ring.

All of these athletes have devoted a lot of time and effort into reaching the pinnacle of their respective sports through training with hard work and sports-specific training. The higher in a sport an athlete goes, the more they need to incorporate strength training as part of their training program.

Pumping iron will not turn you into a female Rambo. One of the biggest myths in fitness is that you should perform all-aerobic training for fat loss.

Women tend to have the perception that you should avoid weight training because upon lifting a dumbbell you will become big and bulky.

This is a shame, as studies of untrained women typically show a decrease of 3-7pc in body fat in a nine- to 10-week period when weight training is a major component of their programme.

In my experience, the body shapes of women respond well to weight training. In order to achieve optimal gains, women will need a frequency of at least three days a week per muscle group and the extent of the muscle-building will depend on the programme design and the genetics of the individual.

A study in 1996 on 56 post-menopausal women who did weight training for one year showed that their bone density increased when they lifted heavy weights. By comparison, it did not increase after three sets of lighter weights for 20 repetitions.

Initially, women who perform weight training fear that they will become too muscly. This fear diminishes over time, as males have 10 times more testosterone than women and this hormone helps build muscle.

Physiologically, there are a number of differences between the genders that can affect performance.


For instance, although women can become very strong, it is important to note that there is a tendency for women to lose strength faster than males in periods of rest from training. .

Female athletes will continue to inspire other females to continue training and if we follow their methods, we too can enjoy a measure of success that they enjoy in our health, life-span and our appearances. Their success has left clues and all we have to do is follow them.

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