A recent research paper by Ritchie et al., (2017) entitled “Where science meets practice: Olympic coaches’ crafting of the taper process” has supported a long held belief of mine that performance coaching is about science being applied artistically; in other words we apply scientific principles and knowledge to situations that are complex and human in nature. Ritchie et al., (2017) discuss the taper process and acknowledge previous research in this area that considers different models such a linear, stepped etc. The basic concept is to maintain performance by lowering volume and maintaining intensity and frequency. Ritchie et al., interviewed seven performance coaches in track and field, one of the key findings was that these experienced coaches had developed the scientific principles to deliver a taper but there was much more to the taper than just applying the science. Adapting the plan constantly, monitoring the process and collaborating with the athletes were almost more important in the taper.
For this years British championships I worked closely with two athletes. These athletes had a three week overload period prior to a two week taper. The overload period was hard and included two competitions, one of which was international, a week long training camp and a weekend of national squad training embedded within their normal training programme. Coaches normally plan the taper prior and manage a linear, exponential or stepped type of decrease in performance. Based upon the work cited above I decided to choose a different approach.
We use a programme called athlete analyser to monitor the athletes training load. Athlete Analyser uses the work of Gabbett (2016) to monitor training load and the software produces a live graph. The aim of my taper was to increase performance by lowering fatigue without diminishing fitness, this means decreasing volume whilst maintaining intensity. Using the live graph and collaborating daily (sometimes twice daily) with the athletes I manipulated the taper. One of the graphs are shown below.
Figure 1: One of the athletes “training insights” on athlete analyser shows the previous 90 days training load. The dotted lines are predictive (this was screen shot 3-4 days before the event) and shows the athlete will ‘peak’ for this event.
Both athletes reported feeling very well prepared for the competition and were confident going into the event.
This method is very time consuming, as a volunteer coach I would struggle to do this with more than 3-4 athletes. There is also the consideration of the athletes mental state in the overload period and the taper, coaches have to remember how the athletes are feeling and whilst listening to them sometimes be prepared to move on and complete the sessions you wanted to. Lastly, if you have set technical elements you want to cover in the taper, you may have to accept you cannot.
We should also remember there are some factors not recorded by the software yet, illness, fatigue from work, fatigue from travel etc
This is something I am going to be looking at in a lot more detail, any feedback is welcome! I think working closely with the athletes to apply this kind of science is the key to successful performance coaching.
A new research project I am embarking on is considering the use of training load in judo. I am working with one of Comberton judo clubs coaches/athletes who is a student at Anglia Ruskin University where I lecture.
What is training load?
In it’s most simple form training load is the amount (volume) and the intensity (how hard you work) of training in a given period, often a day, week, or month. It has been suggested that training load monitored well can help predict injury (Gabbett, 2016; Gabbett & Domrow, 2007) but other reasons include appropriate planning and ‘peaking’ for an event.
For a few years now I have monitored athletes training load and in recent years I have considered training load in terms of fatigue (chronic/28days) and fitness (acute/current daily load). I started doing this using dropbox and excel, then moved to google docs and I am currently using Athlete Analyser. The numbers we get from the athlete are basic, number of hours training and intensity (RPE), this worked in google docs and excel pretty well but now that we’re collaborating with Athlete Analyser it is much easier and we can collect a lot more data.
Reading the data…
The numbers produce a graph and this allows us to consider training status and likelihood of injury. Once we have collected more data I will write a blog post showing how we use the graphs to predict injury and plan a taper.
Figure 1: Screenshot of training load take from Athlete Analyser.
What is our research looking at?
Myself and Holly have been working with the team at Athlete Analyser to develop these training insights because one of the issues we faced with dropbox and google docs was athlete adherence, they’d constantly need chasing up to fill in the documents whereas now the Athlete Analyser app alerts them on any smart phone and reminds them to record their data.
Our research project, which is part of Holly’s final year project at Anglia Ruskin university, is considering training load as a predictor of injury and a variety of other assessments that might help us predict or avoid injury such as strength, functional movement, percentage body fat, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. We also work closely with our club physio Ben Whybrow in terms of injury prevention, I am closely monitoring the taper to see if we can develop research on this and I am working with a masters student on some periodisation research that I will write about in another post. Our participants in the study are full-time athletes and AASE athletes at Comberton Judo Club.
I’ll be posting more about this research and other work we’re doing in due course! Please ask any questions int he comments below.
We now have a new research assistant at Anglia Ruskin, Natasha Collins, who will focus on performance analysis in judo.
Physiology during judo contest – Lactate testing and heart rate
Natasha was originally an undergraduate at Leeds metropolitan university and then transferred to Anglia Ruskin for her final year to train as a full-time judo player. Her undergraduate dissertation focussed on time motion analysis and kumi-kata in British judo and compared juniors to seniors. This has subsequently be edited for publication and is currently being peer reviewed.
She will support a variety of research topics including the coach-athlete relationship, LTAD and athlete monitoring but her main focus will be performance analysis in judo. This will support my PhD work and the work of Glenn Miller.
Natasha will also continue to work as the judo programme administrator and one of our AASE coaches.
Anglia Ruskin has a thriving judo research group that collaborates with academics around the world. We currently have around 10-15 members of staff focussing on judo research including performance analysis, physiology, coaching, the history of judo, child protection in judo and many other topics as well as three PhD students currently focussing on judo topics. The number of PhD students will hopefully increase this year.
Here are some of our research pics…
Physiology – VO2 max
Physiology – VO2 max
Judo contest physiology
Physiology – VO2 max
If you would like more information on the judo research group or the judo programme at Anglia Ruskin University please visit http://www.anglia.ac.uk/judo or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The programme for the IAJR conference has just arrived 🙂 Here is a screen shot 🙂