Stress Spikes: The Impact Of Fitness On Decision Making

An interesting post on the drop in decision making as you tire and your heart rate goes up.

We should all be aiming to get fitter, and integrating decision making exercises into our fitness work.

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The science behind Tabata workouts

The science behind Tabata workouts

Mike Fletcher used to be a huge advocate for these type of workouts. We’ll be doing these in the summer term in prep for Open Tour.

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Pre Nats Fitness

With only 4 weeks to go till the biggest tournie of the year, now’s the time to really get yourself into throwing and fitness. Remember, everytime you mark up against someone and you are fitter or quicker than them, that’s one less player they have to throw to, and one more option for us. This game is won and lost on the smallest of margins, and fitness really does make a huge difference to winning games, especially the important ones at the end of the weekend when both teams are tired.


Rome wasn’t built in a day, and Brodie Smith didn’t just learn to be a jackass throw great backhands overnight. It takes hours and hours to perfect a skill (10,000 according to Matthew Syed) so if you can get out and throw with a friend / dog / grandma then take the opportunity. But don’t just throw simple throws, push your limits and you’ll come back throwing stuff that would make it onto highlights clips. A great blog about this comes from a legend of the sport, Ben Wiggins. Use the evenings to grab a mate and get out throwing. Just 20mins a day will make a huge difference. Use the squad email to find a throwing partner if you’re in Cambridge.


I’ve been banging on about this all term so you won’t be surprised to see it come up here. Any running you can do over the break is fantastic. If you don’t have much time, then High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is the best running you can do to get fit and ready for the season ahead. There is some good intro to it all here. So over the next few weeks you could try running these twice a week:

  • Week 1: 4mins running at 70% then 3mins off. Repeat 4-6 times.
  • Week 2: 3mins running at 80% then 3mins off. Repeat 4-6 times.
  • Week 3: 90sec running at 85% then 3mins off. Repeat 10 times.
  • Week 4: 60sec running at 90% then 3mins off. Repeat 10 times.


Plyos are really important to strengthen your joints and give you bounce. Both important for this sport. Here is a good intro to them. Best to do these before the running workout above.


Similar to plyos, these are great, and can be fun too. Check out these. Make them into a game with your siblings, or while you’re brushing your teeth.


Key to every sport is strong core. Nick Wong put together this excellent series of posts about it.


I could have saved myself lots of $$$ in physio fees if I’d stretched more. Your joints need flexibility in order for the body mechanics to operate as they should. Stretch everyday if you can. Here’s a good stretch routine again from runner’s world. Or Yoga – I’ll be going to this one a lot over the holidays

Watching Ultimate

I’m not a huge fan of watching ultimate, but if you are then these are some great sites UltivillageLuke Johnson on VimeoSkyd MagazineNexGen Productions. Hell, even watch Brodie Smith if it gets you excited about throwing and practicing more. Just don’t start acting like him.

Stay Safe

Final thing is to remember to stay safe. If you’re running in the dark, wear a light. It something starts to hurt, stop and see a physio.


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Hot yoga

Bikram (hot) yoga

Being flexible is pretty important for athletes, and many of the top ultimate players use hot yoga sessions as great core workouts, with the added benefit of a really good stretching session. The room is heated to 40deg and really high humidity.

Ive started going this year and can really recommend it. It loosens up my back, hamstrings and neck… All areas i struggle with stretching normally.

There are a few places in town, but I wanted to recommend this one that has just opened and is reasonably priced. For students it is only £7 per session, or £5.50 when you buy 10 sessions. Sessions are 2 hours. Every evening at 5 and 7pm. Central cambridge location.


If you want to come along with me then ask when I’m next going.

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UKU-BUCS Uni Outdoor Nationals & Alumni Cup

20-21 April 2013

Nottingham Uni (Grove Farm)

UKU-BUCS University Outdoor Nationals and Alumni Cup comes to Nottingham
University’s Grove Farm. This is the same venue used for Mixed Tour and
Open/Women’s Tour in previous years. As with 2012, we will hold Open
Divisions 1 & 2 (16 teams in each), plus a Women’s division (24 teams), and
the Alumni Cup (16 teams).

The Open Division qualification events occurred on the 9-10 March, and
normally would create two divisions of 16 teams each. We had some severe
weather problems during regionals, so it is possible that the format of
Finals may need adjustment – we’re waiting to review that at the moment.
However we have a maximum limit of 32 open teams.

The Women’s division will have a limit of 24 teams and places will be
allocated to 1st teams first, and then on first-come, first-served basis.

The Alumni Cup (*) will be limited to 16 teams as in 2012. Again this is
first-come, first-served.

We have information on the website here:

There is an online entry form on that page.

Deadline for entries and payment is MONDAY 1st APRIL.

Accommodation. Please note that we prioritising trying to find cheap/group
accommodation for the Uni Women’s teams.

Comments about ALUMNI CUP:


. All players in a particular institution’s alumni team should be
ex-students of that institution.

. We will limit each institution to one team unless we have spare
places at the tournament.

. In order to help the Alumni division get off the ground, any team
with 10 or fewer
players is permitted to bring one guest player (no restrictions).

. Current students NOT competing in the other divisions ARE
permitted to play in the Alumni Cup. It is strongly advised that players do
NOT play in the Alumni division in addition to one of the other

Other Comments:

. Shirt colours are bound to be difficult. We recommend that all
teams bring a backup white shirt to enable games to be played as Light v
Dark if all else fails. If you have a better solution that is fine of

. We will take a simpler approach to SOTG in the Alumni division
where we ask each team to provide a single vote for their opponents who they
believe displayed the best Spirit.

. In 2012 Leeds University became the first UKU Alumni Cup
Champions. Can you take on the mighty Leeds?

Hope to see you there!


Ps – Alumni Cup – we intend to make this a permanent feature of Uni Outdoor
Nationals. I didn’t put this on the website, but LEEDS IS BEST. Hah. If
you don’t come you can’t do anything about it. J

Si Hill, UK Ultimate

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This weeks morning sessions

This week we had a great turnout to both sessions. Dom ran Tuesday and Elliott ran Thursday. We did the same drill at both – The Skogs drill.

This drill works at getting the disc off the line through a handler movement. We also included a continuation pass to work on getting some flow into our game and being aware of what is going on around us.

Here’s the drill:

and the variation we did this morning:

We’ll be using that on Friday Astro so check it out.

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Shin Splints: A Brain-dump

Hi all. A few people have been asking me about their shin splints recently, so I thought I’d put this up for future reference; it’s a very common condition in ultimate, especially in the summer months, and there’s a lot of misinformation around to confuse people.

The first thing to know is that shin splints isn’t a diagnosis- it is, at best, a vague description of a symptom. The actual source of the pain can be any of a handful of different options, and there are more than a few factors which cause the issue to arise anyway. As such, treating them can be frustrating and fruitless until you find what is causing your shin splints- there is, regrettably, no catch-all solution.

Do I have shin splints?

‘Shin splints’ is used as a general term for basically any pain between the ankle and the knee. So… probably. Most commonly, it presents down the medial (inside) edge of the tibia (shin bone), often about a third to half of the way up from the ankle- but sometimes higher as well. This pain will get worse as you run on it, often fading between sessions- you may not feel it when you’re on the pitch though, because of a part of the fight-or-flight response called stimulus-induced analgesia. The area will be tender to the touch, and pressing your fingers against or just behind the corner of the bone could be uncomfortable or agonising. There probably won’t be any visible swelling or redness (this is more a cause for acute concern).

What is it that’s hurting?

Understanding the different causes of pain in shin splints is important because it explains the range of treatment options available.

The less common source of pain is a fairly small muscle called the tibialis posterior, or tib post. Normally, it helps plantar flexion (pushing your toes down), inversion (raising the inside edge of your foot), and supports your arch. It runs up the inside of your lower leg for a bit. If you run too heavily on your forefoot, if your feet tend to roll inwards as you run (as can happen if your shoes are old, not supportive enough, or if you have high arches), or if you’re at all flat-footed (low arches), this can mean that the muscle is either overworked or being jerked around a lot, causing tendonopathy, which hurts.

More common is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS), which is often used as a more-medical-sounding synonym for shin splints. You have a number of muscles in the lower leg- the biggest of which are the gastrocnemius (long calf muscle, which goes from the heel to just above the knee at the back of your leg), the soleus (short calf muscle, which goes beneath the gastroc, from the heel, terminating just below the knee). Both of these have little ligamentous insertions into the bone all the way up the lower leg, basically to stop them wobbling around too much when slack. If these connections are jerked around a lot, they become inflamed and painful, as well as causing slight oedema (buildup of fluid around them). In rare cases, this can be bad enough to cause stress fractures in the bone; and in even rarer cases, compartment syndrome- where the fluid buildup increases the pressure in the muscular compartment enough to actually cut off blood flow. This is, as I say, highly unlikely, and has the extra symptoms of the area being very cold after exercise, and feeling very tight (as if it were a fluid-filled inextensible bag… because it is).

What’s actually wrong with me?

There is nothing wrong with you. You are a precious little snowflake and don’t let anyone tell you different. That aside…

Commonly shin splints are an overuse injury- changing the frequency and/or intensity with which you run, the hardness of the surface, or the shoes you’re running in- try to work up to any big changes in your exercise regime rather than jumping straight in. In particular, a killer is coming back from the Easter vacation (lots of revision, not much exercise) to train hard for Tour season on ground which is suddenly a lot less soft.

‘Overuse’ is a bit of a bleak way of looking at it, though- I found it pretty depressing to think that I just wasn’t capable of putting as much into training as I wanted to. Specifically, what causes the damage is that any one of a whole bunch of muscles and tendons either isn’t flexible enough or isn’t strong enough. Muscles aren’t perfect springs- they take different amounts of force to deform at different points in their range of motion (ROM). This means that an untrained muscle, when quickly put under tension, can pull on various bits like the tibial insertions I mentioned earlier, even if it’s not actually stretched as far as it can go. On the other end of the scale, if a muscle is reasonably flexible but can’t generate enough force to oppose the load put on it, it won’t be able to absorb any of the shock of the foot being placed down and (as is quite common) the heel will slam into the ground, putting all of the force up through your solid, brittle skeleton rather than the viscoelastic muscles and tendons. Furthermore, the almost instantaneous deload of your calf muscles as the heel hits the floor means that suddenly, all those muscles are pulling against is you, not gravity! In the case of tib post tendonopathy, weakness in the tib post itself means that it can get jerked out of its ‘comfort zone’.

To further complicated matters, muscles don’t work about their joint in isolation. It’s not just the condition of the calf muscles which can cause damage to the calf. The soleus, gastroc, hamstrings, glutes, and erector spinae are all attached to each other (in what’s called the posterior chain), so if any of them are in poor condition they can yank all the way down the line. Don’t believe me? Stretch your hamstrings with your toes pointed down and your back hunched over. Now do it again with your toes pointed up and your back lordotic (bum and chest tilted out). Most people have just one or two components which cause them problems, so if you find it, it’s important to factor it into your warm up.

I’m not sure I care about all this. How do I get better?

Oh, so many ways. Unfortunately, it really depends on what’s causing the issues to begin with. I’ll pull down the much less common forms first.

Compartment syndrome- This is almost certainly not you. So don’t be concerned when I say that the most effective treatment is surgery to flay open most of your leg and allow the pressures to equalise, as well as getting rid of any tissue which has already died. I really, strongly recommend you don’t google for pictures of the procedure (called a fasciotomy, fact fans/ the unnecessarily curious). I stress again that this is really unlikely to be your problem.

Stress fractures- Don’t do anything for 3 months. What did you expect? You’ve got broken bones. No jumping, no running, no pivoting- don’t walk too hard either. I did this. It was hard.

Garden-variety MTSS and tib post tendonopathy- this is the long bit.

  • In the short term, RICE. Rest it (take a session or two off, consider replacing sprints with a low-impact fitness routine,, make sure you give yourself a day or two between sessions,  etc.), ice it after exercise (strapping an ice pack to it or running an ice cube up and down the affected area for ~10 minutes, then giving it 20 minutes off), compression (some sources claim that restricting the lateral motion of the muscle by putting a brace or tubigrip round it can help), and elevation. Ibuprofen will also help, but don’t let it become a crutch- I spent about a month using ibuprofen to let me run on splints so bad it was painful to walk normally. Pro tip- don’t do this.
  • If your shoes are old or very cheap, consider some new ones. It won’t be entirely the shoes’ fault, but they’re not helping and often if you’re running badly you’ll have worn your shoes down in such a way as to make matters even worse. Shock absorbing insoles can also help, particularly in the summer months when the ground is hard, but be prepared for the fact that they make your shoes difficult to fit or cut off circulation. If the soles are too soft or worn, they will accentuate any tendency you have for rolling your foot, which is bad. Some people even recommend running barefoot or in a minimalist shoe in order to improve your running technique (on the basis that it’s immediately uncomfortable if you’re running wrong, where more built-up shoes allow you to heel-strike in such a way which doesn’t hurt, but can do damage in the long run). Given you can’t get any traction with a minimal shoe (even on hard ground), I’d not bother with this. Although I, personally, love my FiveFingers for casual wear.
  • Warm up and warm down. If you don’t warm up, you’re sprinting on muscles which aren’t as flexible as they could be at that moment. If you don’t warm down, your muscles will probably be more stiff by the next time you train (if it’s fairly soon). Your warm up wants to be literally getting warm, then doing some dynamic stretching- this doesn’t mean intense axe-kicking left right and centre, just that your stretch the muscle gently as far as you’re comfortable with over the course of a couple of seconds, give it a second or two, and then stretch it again, aiming to get it a little bit further. Don’t bounce or jerk into the stretch. If you’ve identified something which often becomes stiff or painful, give it extra attention as you warm up- if you’re running a warm up, allow others to do the same! On the warm down, again don’t let yourself get cold, and again don’t jerk into a stretch, but the stretches can be longer; you still want to work into them gently, though. If there’s a particular stretch which troubles you, by all means spend a couple of extra minutes on it.
  • Rehab/ prehab. Most physios will have to prescribe you an hour or two of stretching a day to make sure all of your bases are covered. If you reckon you’ve identified your problem spot (for me, it was the soleus, for example), this can be cut down a lot. There are a whole range of strengthening exercises (calf raises, toe lifts, band pulls, hyperextensions) depending on what you need to work on, but unless you’re recovering from a particular injury, chances are you’ll be able to get the strength you need from running, so long as you can do it without injuring yourself. Flexibility is something which won’t really get any better unless you work at it, though. It’s primarily the posterior chain which needs work, with more importance attached to the lower muscles. Lots of people prescribe a single straight-legged calf stretch, which is probably good enough for most people, but I found it wasn’t and so had two calf stretches to do. The important thing is to be able to push your toes up/ heel down with your leg straight and with your leg bent- I did this with my foot on a desk, leaning on my knee, and leaning against a wall with my toes on a large book respectively. Again, work into it gently. But if you’re being gentle in the loading phase of the stretch, you’re pretty safe to push it past the point where it’s comfortable (just back off if you feel the muscle tightening up by reflex). With the bent-leg stretch in particular, you may feel it more in the front of your ankle (the talus) than the achilles tendon and soleus, but persevere and everything will even out and let you get a good stretch. Most hamstring stretches involve you leaning forwards- keep your back lordotic when you do, and if you’re bending over towards parallel with the floor support your upper body on a desk or something- it’s safer for your back and will let you get a better stretch. The best glute stretch I’ve found is the ‘pigeon’, as we usually do as part of the warm down- when you do this, bear in mind that getting your hips facing forward squarely and not being tilted is much more important than the angle your leg makes, or how far you lean forwards.
  • If you suspect/ know that your feet are either flat or high-arched, consider some shaped insoles. Really, this is a bit of a last resort- they are in general over-prescribed (some physios swear by them, and most podiatrists will tell you that you need them), and while I suspect they are useful for people with some foot shapes, they’re a big waste of money if you don’t actually need them. Mine cost something like £300 including the podiatrist’s consultation, were incredibly uncomfortable, shredded 3 pairs of boots pretty quickly, and didn’t help in the slightest.
  • Lifting. I haven’t actually heard this prescribed specifically for shin splints, but to me it’s a bit of a no-brainer that if you’re lacking in strength or your posterior chain has developed out of proportion, big lifts like squats, deadlifts and bench press (a proper powerlifting bench press actually has a significant posterior chain/ lower body component) will help. Start light and concentrate on form before starting to lift heavy, especially if you’re already suffering from shin splints. Another important facet of lifting heavy weights is the degree to which it strengthens your skeleton, tendons and ligaments, which is very worthwhile. You don’t get that from isolation exercises or lifting light. Plus, it’s low impact and reasonably low speed.

You’ll probably be thinking that everything above is just a concatenation of everything you’ve ever read about shin splints elsewhere. Well, you’re pretty much right. That’s because it’s such a varied injury; lots of physios, websites, past sufferers etc. reckon they’ve got one way to get rid of them (and they might be right for something like 70% of sufferers), but it’s impossible the make such a statement and I think that to understand that, it’s necessary to know why. I haven’t seen an all-inclusive resource like this on t’internet, so I thought I’d make one.


If you’re suffering from shin splints, I recommend you rest for a bit. Some people just get them once when they start training harder, and then it goes when things even out. Then try fixing your habits- get new shoes if you need them, make sure you’re warming up and down appropriately, and try to work out if there’s anything odd about the way you run or turn. Next, work on the rehab/ prehab stretches, paying particular attention to the lower leg muscles.

And I really hope it gets better!

Former shin splint sufferer/ massive physiology nerd

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Absent Captain


Just letting everyone know that I’m not going to be around after this week. I’m afraid my research must come first, and calls me down to London then Beijing over the next few weeks.

No matter though, Dom will be running the morning and Astro sessions, and I will be back for Varsity on 23rd definitely.

So I’ll be away from Cambridge:

  • Feb 11th – March 2nd
  • March 3rd – 27th (maybe)

I will definitely be back in Cambridge after Paga on 2nd April. 



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31st Jan Morning Session

We ran CUFT at 7.15. Latest scores up on the CUFT blog page 

Then we did a lead pass drill (throw ahead of them at chest height) followed by a 4×4 game. 

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SB Open Trials 2013

  • Where: Abbey Pools Astro
  • When: 1st Feb 6pm-8pm (Please be ready to go at 6pm, so get there early and put on your boots and begin throwing before hand)
  • Who: Open to all that want to play at Open level, so we are welcoming both men and women of all standards who are looking to commit to train with intensity.
At the trial the Captains will select a 25-30 player training squad. From this squad players will be chosen to represent Cambridge Uni 1sts & 2nds at both Varsity, Regionals and Nationals.
The squad will be picked based on an individual’s:
  • Ultimate Ability
  • Intensity & Work-rate
  • Attendance
  • Team Work
  • Spirit
  • Potential
  • Ability to learn and take on new ideas
We’ll be running two drills, if you get a chance please take a look at them here:
Vertical Offence Drill:

Horizontal Offence Drill:

Warm-up starts at 6, but please get there at 5.45 to get ready and start throwing. We’ll finish at 8 and then there is the option of heading to the pub for food and drinks.
The squad will be training hard this term to get into shape to contest not only the Varsity match, but to uphold our dominance in the Midlands region. There will be Friday night Astro sessions every week through term, along with the morning skills sessions. Attendance at these will be expected for squad members… We want to win these tournaments after all, so need train as much as we can together.
The squad will be announced on 2nd Feb.
Please note, if you are intending to play SB ultimate this year, and would like to be considered for either 1st or 2nd team then you need to attend the trial. Recognising that people are busy, if you can’t make this one then let us know and you can trial at another Astro session.
The trials will be designed for all abilities, and we are looking for any players with potential and that are willing to learn, so College League players welcome.
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