Yesterday I attended a BASES workshop focusing on critical power. Essentially it is a performance measure that gives a level of training intensity that is maintainable for somewhere between 20-40 mins. Theoretically it should be the same as your maximum lactate steady state (MLSS) but it tends to sit a little higher in the severe intensity domain. However, those utilising it tend use a further zone classification between the heavy and severe zones, imaginatively titled the ‘very heavy’ zone.
The test itself requires three maximum effort tests of varying lengths between 3 and 15 minutes long (3, 7 and 12 minutes seem to be the most common). These tests usually take place on the same day with 3 hours recovery between each one. With the average power data you can plot a graph against time and get a measure of critical power.
The measure lends itself particularly well to cycling given the familiarity with wattage as a measure of training intensity, however it is possible to take the tests using a set distance or time that is more applicable to runners and swimmers where taking of MLSS is very difficult to achieve. The information is very communicable to athletes given the graph produced and units are simple to understand. The value is also great to use for prescription of intensities when designing training sessions.
A certain amount of familiarity needs to be developed with the test in terms of pacing strategy which can skew early tests (those who’ve used the cooper test will be familiar with this) and the large recovery periods and requirement for full day to test could make the test inconvenient compared to a MLSS test which essentially gives a similar measure. It was mentioned that it had been trialled within an hour with similar results to the full day testing. If this proves reliable then I think the test becomes much more usable, primarily in cycling and swimming.
This past year I’ve coached many athletes performing at varying levels from elite to recreational in a variety of sports. During many of the coaching sessions I have experienced a range of emotions including those ranging from mild surprise to astonishment at how some of these athletes have performed to as high a level that they have. There is a fairly common theme in many of the cases and that is a necessity for a ground up building of movement skills.
We’re not just talking Olympic lift technique, which is obviously common to have to coach from early levels, that’s bread and butter for a strength and conditioning coach. I’m talking primarily about basic movements; a lack of ability to balance on one leg, to bodyweight quarter squat without losing form or to bodyweight split squat while maintaining posture. Basically a lack of core strength and flexibility. I may be fantasizing here but how good would it be, and I’m sure a lot of coaches would agree with me, to have these basics taught in schools.
I think about the athletes I’ve worked/am working with and the difference in where they are now and where they could’ve been if they’d been coached these basics during that key development period from 12-16 years old. Maybe the development of a movement curriculum, a minimum standard, that has to be attained alongside maths, English and science could solve the problem. A schools’ purpose is prepare children for continued education, to teach social skills and ease entry into the working environment. I would tag onto this to be able to maintain their health through continued exercise/sporting participation. How is this possible if they are unable to support their own bodyweight adequately or move properly?
Maybe it is something that would be better targeted at primary school age? Is it the role of teachers (primary/PE) to do this? Should local councils employ strength and conditioning coaches? These are all questions that would have to be addressed before such a scheme was introduced. It would be great to hear some other opinions on this.
Brian O’Driscoll will make his 100th appearance in an Ireland shirt at Croke Park today against Wales. It is testament, first of all, to his ability as a rugby player that he reaches his milestone and secondly to his longevity as an athlete that he is able to do this. It hasn’t all been smooth sailing though and his career has been interrupted by injury, most notably a recurring hamstring issue and the dislocated shoulder that prematurely ended his Lions tour of New Zealand in 2005. His recovery from these injuries demonstrates his athletic ability but also highlights the quality of man management the IRFU is able to attain due to the central contracting of their best talent.
There are no conflicts of interest in Ireland, everyone knows where they stand. The vast majority of the squad ply their trade for Irish teams and so the number of games they play is essentially in the best interests of the player. This is not so in England. The issues surrounding James Haskell this week and the tug of war between Stade Francais, his employer, and the RFU shows that player management is not what it should be. Haskell is an important player for England and will play a big role in the Calcutta cup match this weekend. It shouldn’t have even been a debate, he should have no game between the intensely physical match against Ireland and the, in all likelihood brutal, match against Scotland. Instead we saw both sides consulting lawyers and threatening legal discourse.
Until England manage to sort out the management of players, these issues will continue to crop up, more so if they continue to disregard their own policy of not selecting those players who decide to play abroad.