Entries in pressure (2)


Tennis Pro Credits CVAC Pressure Pod for His Recent Success on Court

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Novak Djokovic's rapid launch to tennis stardom and number one ranking this summer has left many of his fans and competitors asking, "What's his secret?"

A special training routine?  A lucky jock-strap?  No -- just a spaceship-like pressurized pod that gives him super-human healing powers, according to comments made by the athlete last week.

At first, the 24-year-old Serb credited his recent sharpness on the courts to his new gluten-free diet, but last week he revealed something even more unorthodox in his arsenal to obtain athletic edge: the CVAC Pod.

"I think it really helps -- not with muscle but more with recovery after an exhausting set," he said at a sponsor event last week according to the Wall Street Journal.  "It's like a spaceship.  It's very interesting technology."

The pod may look like the bizarre synthetic egg that hatched Lady Gaga at this year's Grammy Awards, but the CVAC is being taken seriously by a number of professional athletes looking for the next big thing in performance enhancement, including Olympic cyclist John Howard and mixed-martial artist Rampage Jackson.

CVAC, short for Cyclic Variations in Adaptive Conditioning, simulates rapid changes in altitude, which reportedly stimulates the body on a cellular level, increasing oxygen absorption, promoting muscle recovery, and boosting the lymphatic system.

The concept of using altitude and pressure changes to promote better athletic performance is nothing new -- the fact that high altitudes increase the number of oxygen-transporting red blood cells in your system has been studied for years.  This is why many athletes will spend time at high altitudes during training season to increase their body's oxygen absorption, and by extension their stamina and athletic performance.

The shocking -- and controversial -- claim of the CVAC system, however, is that it accomplishes these bodily changes in just a couple of 20 minute sessions a week.

"It does between 100 and 200 pressure changes in 20 minutes," says Allen Ruszkowski, president/CEO of CVAC Systems, which makes the device.  "Typically the body requires several weeks before it adapts to altitude, but by changing the pressure in very specific patterns, we can reduce the amount of time that someone has to spend at altitude," he says.

Studies done at the University of Hawaii and Stanford University have offered support for these claims and more clinical trials are underway, according to Ruszkowski.

Dr. Benjamin Levine, a professor of medicine at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and a long-time expert in using altitude changes to enhance athletic performance, is dubious that the CVAC chamber can really do all it promises.

Levine, who directs the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine at Texas Health Presbyterian, developed the concept of "live high, train low" almost 20 years ago.  The basic idea was that living at high altitudes causes the body to adapt and produce more red blood cells, but training at that altitude is more difficult and hence limits how hard an athlete can work out -- hence the "train low," meaning that athletes would come down from high altitudes once a day to train in locations closer to sea level.

With "live high, train low" however, it takes athletes at least 12 hours of high altitude exposure each day over three to four weeks to really see the effects.

"My personal opinion is that there's absolutely no evidence that the CVAC system works.  The duration of the stimulus is way too short for your biological systems to become activated," Levine says.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Writing Can Help Avoid Choking Under Pressure

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Jasmin Sultana, 24, of Queens, N.Y., knows only too well what it means to choke under pressure.

The first time she took her driving test, tears welled up in her eyes and she could not see the road. She pulled over mid-test, stopped the car, and told the tester, "I just can't do this."

"Even though I was prepared for it, leading up to it I was really sweaty," said Sultana. "I started to feel nervous, and during the test I started crying."

The second and third time she took the test, Sultana could feel her stress level building. Again, she choked.

"I just couldn't concentrate," she said. "It became such a long process to pass this test."

Sultana was wrapping up her final college year before she got the nerve to try it again. This time she brought a friend along. Right before the test, her friend assured her there was nothing to worry about.

Sultana thought about failure, she told her friend. She thought about what her tester thought about her. She thought taking a deep breath to quell the anxiety won't work for her. But she also thought, "I've got to pass this thing." She didn't want to take this test again.

"Telling someone put things in perspective for me, that it's just a test that I've been prepared for," said Sultana, who went on to pass the test.

Letting out all of her fearful thoughts before test time may have done the trick, according to a new study published Thursday in the journal Science. The study suggests that simply writing about your anxiety just a few minutes before a high-stakes event can help you perform significantly better.

Researchers conducted four separate studies that focused on test-taking anxieties of high school and college students. Before giving the students a test, researchers assigned different groups of students with high performance anxiety to either write down their anxieties about taking the upcoming test, write freely about any topic, or not write at all.

"I am afraid I am going to make a mistake," wrote one student in the expressive writing group.

"I just want to stop thinking about how I am going to fail," another student wrote.

The study found that those who wrote about their test anxiety in some cases received a whole grade letter higher than those who wrote about an unrelated event, or did not take the time to write.

"It's really a counterintuitive finding -- that dwelling on your worries can have a positive impact," said Sian Beilock, an associate professor in the department of psychology in The University of Chicago and co-author of the study.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio