CITY, Mo. ó Jake Middleton is a fitness trainer for video
few deep breaths, as he often tells his clients, and soak this
in: We are a video-gaming nation, thatís a fact. As such, we
can either waste away there with a four-pack of Red Bull and
bag of flaming Cheetos ó or we can follow Middletonís
sound-body, sound-mind advice.
lot of research shows that aerobic exercise is really good for
brain function," says Middleton, 24, of Blue Springs, Mo.
"When youíre gaming youíre using your brain more than
knows more than a little about physiology and the joystick
culture. He knows that in the heat of battle a playerís
heart rate may surpass 160 beats per minute. He knows how
blood sugar can spike and crash under the influence of energy
can strike. Wrists go numb. Sleep might suffer.
most troubling is that just as society has embraced big-money,
professional video-game competition, "a bunch of these
guys are burning out and retiring in their early 20s,"
welcome to Mat Smithís garage.
is there in Oak Grove, Mo., spotting Smith, 21, while Smith
hoists a 60-pound barbell from a squat, back straight,
shoulders up. Again and again. The point of this is to tone
muscles that promote good posture.
they toss a medicine ball.
malady of the intensive gamer is the drooping of shoulders and
slow caving in of the chest. Smith was fit and trim from the
start, but after following Middletonís regimen for a month,
he says he does feel better. When playing "League of
Legends" ó sometimes for several hours at a time ó
his posture seldom slips.
a member of TeamKC, a collection of "League of
Legends" players who compete in amateur tournaments. You
might know the game from an ESPN online broadcast in 2014,
when the world championship from South Korea drew more viewers
globally than did Game 7 of the World Series between the
Royals and the San Francisco Giants.
they call it. E-athletes, the players are dubbed.
sportís broadening appeal and corporate sponsorships present
opportunities for enterprising sorts such as Middleton, who
holds a bachelorís degree in exercise science from Missouri
State University. In addition to being TeamKCís "perfomance
coach," he is founder of the website eSports Perfomance
goal is to get a job as a performance coach with a pro
team" of video gamers, he says.
than a half-dozen of those jobs exist in the U.S., says
Middleton, who earns his income as a personal trainer for the
Blue Springs YMCA. He is providing his services to TeamKC for
not all fun and games for the soft-spoken Middleton ó
himself a video-gamer who qualifies as buff, thanks.
college he teamed with Missouri State instructor Scott
Richmond to test a hypothesis that exercise could enhance game
scores. Participants in the study were randomly assigned to
"a no exercise control group" and another team that
spent time lifting weights and riding stationary bikes.
"League of Legends" as a test case, Middletonís
theory landed a direct hit: The exercise group "increased
in every performance category with a 28.9 percent increase in
win percentage, a 1.4 increase in K/D ratio (kills to
deaths)," according to his paper, and "a 14.4
increase in total points/games played."
study ó this one out of Germany ó established that in some
game players, the bodyís release of the stress-related
hormone cortisol almost rivals what race-car drivers
experience at the wheel. "When you take on those stress
levels, thereís a toll on the body and mind," Middleton
issued to TeamKC workout programs customized to each player.
For gamer Smith, Week 1 included two daily sets of push-ups,
10 "frog jumps," 20 forward lunges, a
"Superman" stretch that involved extending the arms
and arching the back from a prone position, and regular
flexing of the fingers and wrists.
out was something Iíve wanted to do ó just to feel better
in general ó but didnít," Smith said, "Having
Jake as our performance coach was finally the kick I
youngest member of TeamKC is Nathan Harris, 15. He dreams of
someday going pro.
plays soccer and, in defiance of the gamer stereotype, avoids
soda and caffeine. "If you have a bad diet and arenít
getting sleep, youíre not going to do well at the
games," he says. "Too much caffeine and your energy
even lead to tilting. Thatís the term applied to a player
who gets upset and more or less goes berserk, trying to blow
up everything without thinking it through.
well-conditioned gamer does not tilt.
NASAís mission control multiplied by 10.
than 500 computer screens glowed in a cavernous room at KCI
Expo Center, their users communicating through headsets. Last
weekend, TeamKC joined other competitive squads for the 72nd
gathering of KCGameOn. Nine of the teams matched wits in the
"League of Legends" tourney.
trainer Middleton was a calming presence. Between rounds he
quietly led his five-man squad in deep breathing and hand
was there, posture perfect in his chair as always. Beside him
teammate Jeremiah Mata, 18, curled his fingers in and out
before the tournament commenced. Miguel Podilla, 22, arrived
in a black TeamKC tank top, accompanied by his girlfriend.
(The sleeved shirts favored by his mates irritate his
Schreiner heads up LeagueKC, which his business card calls
"the official League of Legends community in the greater
Kansas City area." He travels with TeamKC and provides
the thing. What I want you to do is relax and have fun. Nobody
here has trained as much as us Ö There will be mistakes but
donít let them get to you."
played flawlessly in the first round against a
hastily-assembled squad that called itself Dank Memerinos. But
as midnight neared, double elimination would catch up to
finished second. But looked fit doing it.