Some Fairfield athletes might sit and wonder why they’re not getting better at their sport. They practice every day and workout constantly, but their performance plateaus.

Well, most might not consider that going to bed at 4:00 a.m. because of a 10 page paper, drinking beer and eating a large pizza on Friday night and occasionally taking a hit of marijuana with friends are all factors in athletic performance.

John Underwood, an NCAA All-American and international level distance runner, came to talk to Fairfield University athletes about how their social behaviors outside of training can have tremendous negative effects on their performance.

Underwood explained that success in sports comes down to the brain and central nervous system more than the physical strength of our bodies.  The brain and central nervous system are both directly affected by the use of drugs and alcohol.

Research shows that 83 percent of collegiate athletes admit to using alcohol, a scary statistic considering young adults have the highest rate of alcohol dependence.  In addition, 31 percent of collegiate athletes admitted to using marijuana.

By simply getting drunk one time, Underwood explained, your athletic performance is affected for up to two weeks.  Is that really worth it?

Users of alcohol and marijuana should not just be worried about their athletic performance.  Underwood showed alarming photos of damaged brains from alcohol use and marijuana in athletes, most marked with holes and empty spaces when compared to a healthy brain.

“If the brain doesn’t work, the body doesn’t work,” said Underwood.

Underwood encouraged students that it is not too late to change their ways.  He explained that brains do not officially stop developing until age 23, so students still have time to let their brains  heal if damage has already been done.

Underwood is the president and founder of the American Athletic Association and also founded the program Life of an Athlete, whose motto states, “If it’s important to you, you’ll find a way.  If not, you’ll find an excuse.  Life of an Athlete will change your life.”

Many students were shocked to learn about the drastic effects that behaviors outside of their sport can have on their athletic performance.

Ryan Perkins, a freshman member of the Fairfield University MAAC champion soccer team, said, “Underwood was way more knowledgeable and credible then I could’ve imagined going into the event. I learned a great deal and all the information was supported perfectly to make it believable.”

Hillary Maxson, a sophomore member of the Fairfield University cross country team and someone who does not consume alcohol said: “So many athletes work so hard in practice and in competition only to destroy the benefits of their hard work when making lifestyle choices. Being an athlete is a lifestyle commitment, and we should always be conscious of what we are doing to our bodies.”

Most athletes know that good nutrition and eating healthy is important for performance but might not have considered it to affect their performance too much.  Underwood explained that even simply refueling immediately after a workout with a careful mix of protein and high carbohydrate foods will show positive changes in performance.

Juli Bassett, a sophomore member of the Fairfield University cross country team said, “I am definitely going to rethink what I eat after a tough workout.”

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