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Cyber Tydings

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April 2014

Stress In Athletes

Thinking about what it means to be a student-athletes calls to mind many different stereotypes and images. Some may think of jocks; they may picture football players or soccer fields. Anyone who is, or was, an athlete conjures up the scent of sweat and weight room mats and the excitement of competition. What slips the minds of many when they think of an athlete is mental strain, the internal and external pressures they face. Athletics, especially high school and college athletics are about the struggle to maintain a balance between dedication and obsession.

            There has been a lot of drama in the college sports world over the past few months. In January, a 19 year old track athlete, Madison Holleran, jumped to her death because of academic and athletic pressures. While I am not a track star at an Ivy League school, I am a female, freshman track athlete and can relate in part to the pressures Holleran must have faced. This tragic story hit very close to home as I struggled, with my teammates, to balance a fairly rigorous practice schedule, academic classes, a new lifestyle and atmosphere and a social life (at least occasionally.)

            One of my teammates and close friends, Danny Dugan, is from the same hometown as Holleran. He and his brother, who are both exceptional track athletes and students, face many stressors. Dugan explains that he gets satisfaction from his performance and success on the track. He sets very high standards for himself based on his own abilities, and also on the abilities of other athletes. One of the most toxic elements of track and field is that everything can be compared, every number crunched and someone is always, indisputably, the best. There is a fine line between being motivated by the accomplishments of the elite and being sucked into a demoralizing and futile game of comparisons.

            Another major event in college sports is the debate over whether or not college athletes should unionize to help minimize stress and maximize benefits. Northwestern recently formed the first union of collegiate athletes and it has the potential to change the face of college sports. If athletes become employees, the implications are staggering. There would be an expectation to pay the athletes and to compensate them for medical bills etc. I do not think that his is the solution to reducing stress on collegiate athletes. These unions would only benefit popular sports such as men’s football and basketball. . This sort of system would only draw money away from other, already under-funded programs like track and field, volleyball, etc.

Many of the athletes whom a union would benefit are essentially being paid with scholarships for thousands of dollars. Most schools cover medical expenses if insurance will not. While a union does not seem to be the answer, schools do need to ensure certain benefits and adequate care for athletes. In addition to the typical athletic training room for sports injuries, colleges should have sports psychologists on staff. Informative workshops on how to handle stress, specifically for athletes, should supplement the typical workshops on drug use and concussions.

There are tools that institutions can provide student athletes to help them manage stress, and these are crucial. However, much of the pressure an athlete faces are internal. Competition is in our nature and performance is our driving force. The most important instrument in stress management for athletes is recognizing that they are playing a sport that they should enjoy. No one can eliminate the stress of competition, which is why we play and run and train. We must remember that there is a fine line between dedication and obsession; and it is important to realize which side of the line we stand on.Image

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Killer Outfits

The cost of fashion conjures up images of dollar signs and posh boutiques in the minds of many. Designer duds are costly financially and also in a far darker way. The fashion and textile manufacturing industry can be exploitative, cutthroat and even deadly. This is not a new or unheard of issue, and it as plagued the industry for hundreds of years, especially those at the very bottom of the command chain: garment workers.
In 1911, a large garment factory in New York called the Triangle Shirtwaist Company employed many women, the majority of whom were ages 13-23, to sew and manufacture shirts. The Asch Building was nestled between Greene Street and Washington Place and one Saturday evening, this intersection became a scene of carnage. A fire began on the 8th floor of the 10 story building and the piles of fabric scraps on the floor quickly ignited, becoming a full-fledged inferno. Management had locked many of the doors in the factory to prevent and of the 275 girls from taking breaks or stealing shirtwaists, the fire escape was so flimsy that it collapsed and the only precautions were 27 buckets of water placed strategically throughout the building. As girls rushed to escape the fire, they were pushed down the elevator shaft or trapped behind doors that only opened inward could not handle the onslaught of bodies. Desperately, teenage girls jumped, aflame, from 9th story windows to their deaths. 146 young women died that evening; bodies littered the streets and were found melted to lockers and in the bottom of the elevator shaft.
That was more than 100 years ago, yet, safety in garment factories is still not sufficient. In 2013, the deadliest accident in the history of the industry occurred in Bangladesh. Supervisors urged the workers at the factory, who are paid only 38 cents an hour, to continue to go to work despite the fact that the building was unsafe and unstable. The owner deliberately ignored building codes in order to cram more workers into his building. He added unstable upper floors and extra power generators which ultimately caused the building to collapse. More than 1000 lives were lost merely to manufacture clothing at the lowest possible cost for the highest possible profit. Fashion should never be paid for in blood. Outraged at this incident, Ismail Ferdous and Nathan Fitch (both photojournalists) began a campaign called Cost of Fashion. This project raises awareness for human rights in the industry and is asking all of the clothing brands that used the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh to pay compensation to the workers and their families. This campaign is using media and photojournalism to compel people to change the deplorable conditions that garment workers must endure. For more information, visit http://www.costoffashion.org/about.html.

Too Much Media Consumption Unhealthy for Women?

An interview with two women who attend Bloomsburg University told a story that is consistent with the plight of women across the country. Tori Hagel and Gabby Santa Ana are both freshmen who, despite being fit and healthy, confess to struggling with body image occasionally because of unrealistic pressures from media.
When asked about how media affected her behavior, Hagel stated “I feel like our lives are run by body image. You have to look good for school and work. [Media influenced body image] makes you want to look like someone you’re not.” She also commented that jobs that take appearance (beyond appearing professional and appropriate) into account in the hiring process, like Hollister and Abercrombie, are degrading. These businesses fuel an unhealthy body image and market to an adolescent demographic; they emphasize appearance as the most important aspect of a person.
Santa Ana believes that body image has improved in the last 30 years, because of a push to be fit, not just thin. But, she also commented “Social media plays a huge role [in negative body image] because you see what everyone else looks like, all the time.” The appearance of people on the internet is often skewed because images may be edited and many people only post pictures where they look their best. Both women conceded that they occasionally diet and exercise frequently. They agreed “We exercise a lot and are changing our eating habits mainly to be healthy, but looking good is kind of part of that. Self-confidence is a major factor.”
The influence of media on human behavior is no secret. In 2013, 73% of adults used social media, many on a daily basis according to a survey conducted by PewResearch Internet Project. Many have questioned the negative effects of persistent exposure to media, especially because it tends to show only certain aspects of reality, thereby distorting the perception of normality. For instance, media exacerbates the issue of negative body image, especially in adolescents. The presentation of retouched,
Photoshopped images creates an unrealistic expectation for men and women.
While women are not the only gender that media portrayal of “ideal” body image affects, many studies and surveys center on women, specifically teenaged and young adult women. According to the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) 57% percent of adolescent girls utilize unhealthy weight-loss methods. The average body mass index (BMI) of Miss America winners has decreased from 22 to 16.9 from 1920-2000, in correlation with the advent of widely available media. Additionally, a survey of elementary school girls who read magazines indicated that 69% of them believed that the images influenced how they wanted to look.
Even well-meaning media campaigns, like Dove Real Beauty, can undermine their goal of promoting a healthy self-image. The Dove beauty sketches still focus on being more beautiful, as opposed to embracing personal “flaws” and it implies that women are the most critical of themselves. It does not touch on the root of the issue: society tells women to be critical of themselves and media intensifies the problem.
Many groups exist to support women with eating disorders including NEDA and the National Association for Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD) among others. Some new organizations have been created in an attempt to influence media to portray a healthier, more realistic “ideal body.” One such organization, dosomething.org, points out that only 5% of women have the body that is normally portrayed in American media. These groups, including About-Face and Do Something, need to draw more support in order to change the pervasive trend of unattainable body types in media.
In order to reverse the media messages that are influencing so many people to resort to dangerous, unhealthy and inconvenient methods of weight loss and beautification, consumers of mass media need to exert their influence over the media. Media messages can be subtle, but they are powerful, so women and men alike should be wary of the messages that popular media imbues. The media shows what people want to see and what they respond well too. To vanquish a false portrayal of women, editors of women’s magazines, like Cosmopolitan, for instance, need to seriously reconsider the true message that they convey. Consumers of media and pop culture have the power to influence a positive media environment that portrays images that are realistic, attainable and help all people to feel attractive in their own skin.

Running App: KindSole

My app is for runners and athletes who wear down their sneakers constantly. A worn shoe can lead to a plethora of problems, including knee pain, hip misalignment and issues with foot pronation or supination. There is a general rule about getting new running shoes every 300-500 miles but, without religious documentation it can be difficult to remember just when that is. I know I often forget to include my warm up and cool down in my mileage, and this can be over 10 miles per week. The app, KindSole, uses the phone camera to take a picture of the sole of the shoe (side view) and compares it to a database of running shoes. It compares the width of the sole and estimates how worn down the shoes are. Then, a second picture of the treads of the sneaker will ensure accuracy. The app could even be paired with NikePlus and track mileage and then send a warning to the runner when they need new shoes. In the future, KindSole could be expanded to make recommendations for types of shoes that would be best for the runner based on wear patterns. Wear patterns are a good indication of gait and show the type of foot-striking. These are very simple but valuable things for runners to be aware of. This app would make it easier to know when to change sneakers to prevent injury and maximize performance.

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