What’s in a mouthguard?

In a sport where hundredths of a second can be the difference between winning a race and getting 5th or 6th, every little detail is important.  That’s why I train 5 days a week, 4 hours a day; I’m trying to get as fast and strong as possible.  I also try to keep up with new developments in equipment, which is usually a significant challenge because of cost. If I could have a new set of runners for every race, and a new sled every year…it would be amazing.

Over the past two years I started to hear about Agility Guard, which is basically a new kind of mouthguard.  To be honest, at first I wondered how different one mouthguard could be from another.  I have always used the Sport Chek $20 special, which seemed to work fine, and was easy on the wallet.  But after hearing about Agility Guard more frequently, and seeing some of the successful American sliders proudly wear theirs, I started to look into it more seriously.

I was fortunate to come into contact with the Southern Alberta supplier of Ability Guard, Dr. Larry Stanleigh.  He walked me through the specifications of the Agility Guard, including how and why they work.  I learned how they can not only improve performance, but also safety.  After our initial discussion I decided to go ahead and get one made.

electrodes

agility

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is quite a process.  After the initial consultation, the next step includes getting some dental imprints taken.  Then you are hooked up to a facial muscle stimulator to relax the facial muscles.  It was a little strange, having my facial muscles (including my eyelids), contract repeatedly for over an hour with no control from me.  It wasn’t painful in the least though.  It was similar to Dr. Ho’s pain therapy system if you have ever tried that.  Once my face was sufficiently tenderized, my head was stabilized in a scaffolding like device while Dr. Larry tracked my facial/jaw movements on the computer.

computeragility

Next, he created three different prototype mouthguards that would align my jaw in different ways.  To determine which was the best alignment for me, he did some strength and flexibility testing with each of the mouthguards in.  After picking the color (gold of course!), we were finished for the day.  The whole process took a few hours.

balancetesting

A couple of weeks later the Agility Guards arrived, one for sliding and one for lifting.  They are super comfortable and look great.  I am anxious to get onto the ice to see if I can notice any improvement in my performance.  Even if I can’t notice a difference immediately there is some preliminary evidence indicating it is also an important component of concussion/head injury prevention.  For that alone this well fitted and personalized device is worth it. Until then I am getting used to lifting with a mouthguard.

Only 5 weeks left until the ice opens!  Thanks to Agility Guard, one more piece of the puzzle in is place as I prepare for the upcoming season.

mouthguards

[nggallery id=11]

First half of the Off Season 2012

It’s now 11 weeks into off-season dryland training, which means we are already halfway through.  It’s amazing how fast time has gone, it feels like Canadian Championships were just yesterday.

I have been busy the past few months.  First I spent most of April at work, needing to replenish the empty coffers from working only part time during the sliding season.   In May I was fortunate to get away for a few weeks to the United Arab Emirates/India/Oman to recharge the physical and mental batteries.

Over the years my passion for traveling continues to grow, and I feel privileged to have visited such a unique and interesting part of the world.  It was my first trip to the Middle East, and I must say it was a marvelous place.  For those of you who haven’t been there, it’s like Vegas on steroids, minus the grittiness.  It’s luxurious, hot and safe.  A perfect vacation destination if you ask me!  Also, it was a bit of a coincidence as I found out shortly before leaving my sister was planning on moving to the United Arab Emirates at the beginning of August.  I felt like I got to check the place out a little, and now feel confident she will be well taken care of there.  I think it also provided a little reassurance for my parents, who were my traveling companions, and got to experience her future home first hand.

teaview2

After spending a week and a half in Dubai we boarded a cruise for India.   I wondered what it would be like to return to India, after having spent a tremendous six weeks there interning in a government hospital in 2003.  Once I stepped off the ship, BAM, there it was–India, just as I remembered! For those of you who have been there you will know what I am talking about.   India is an assault on the senses.  It’s loud, dirty, hot, impoverished, sticky and smelly.  It’s also colorful, energetic, beautiful, delicious, and alive.  We visited four cities I hadn’t been to previously including Cochin, New Mangalore, Goa and Mumbai.

mangalore1

Each destination was memorable in it’s own way.  We went to a rural village near the Kerala backwaters on our stop to Cochin and got to experience local life for a day.  New Mangalore was a medium sized city filled with a variety of temples.  Goa, the sun and sand destination of India, was a bit disappointing with a crowded and dirty beach, but was made up for with a bustling Friday market.  In Mumbai we were fortunate to go on a tour of the Dharavi slum with a resident of the community.  That place cannot be described in words. I strongly recommend anyone going to Mumbai take a day to get a glimpse of how 60% (over 8 million) of the city’s population lives.  Following Mumbai we cruised on over to Muscat, Oman, and spent the day driving around the eastern coast and taking in the arid and mountainous landscape.  We also saw some gorgeous wadis (rivers and oases at the bottom of a canyon) and my favorite–wild camels!  From there it was back to Dubai for a couple of days, and inevitably back home and back to reality.

camel1

Since then I have been on the eat-train-work-sleep-repeat routine.  I train 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week, and am also working full time.  I often find myself wishing there was a way to clone myself, or add another 6 hours to the day.  After days like today, where I was exhausted by 2 hours running stairs in the rain followed by an hour and a half of weightlifting and core exercises, it is important for me to remember that winter athletes are made in the summer.

This is the chance I have to get stronger and faster, and no one said it was going to be easy.  Being a pre-Olympic year it is more important than ever for me to get even faster at the push, the first 50m of the track where you are running bent over pushing the sled.  I have high expectations for myself this year, and the only way to get there is through a tremendous amount of hard work.

Well, time for some chicken and rice and a protein shake!  Until next time…

[nggallery id=10]