A major challenge in the work I do with my athletes is the amount of contact time. It’s a time old complaint and I’m sure it will register with any coaches reading this right now. Now instead of talking about how effectively a coach has to use the time they have with their athletes and ensuring key technical points are taken on board, which should be a given, I’m going to talk about how effectively a coach has to use the time they don’t have with their athletes.
A lot of the athletes I work with are currently out of the country. A fairly consistent lack of snow in the UK sees to that, although Europe doesn’t appear to be doing much better on that front at the moment. This means that communication becomes a bit of an issue. Technology definitely helps. Skype is a bit of godsend in that I can have regular contact with athletes and technical coaches to talk about training and progress. Access to the internet for the athlete is pretty much vital now and allows for much better monitoring. Having a system in place that can easily update training programs and monitor technical training volumes is something I’ve been placing a large focus on and it has a massive positive effect on how I am able to coach and how the athletes are able to train.
This time of year is heavy with technical training and races which makes program design difficult as race entry can be decided upon at the very last minute. The main focus is to manage recovery and to reduce the risk of accumulating fatigue. Monitoring signs and symptoms of overtraining is important which is also where contact with technical coaches comes in. They have the most contact with the athletes and ensuring that they know the deal with training volumes and the relationship to fatigue is important.
Using the technologies available and being innovative with them has a massive part to play in the ability of a coach to work remotely. This is definitely an area I see growing in the coming months and years.
Strength and conditioning in the UK is still very much a growing field. There are evermore practitioners starting careers, all eager to work with performance sport and apply their theoretical background to the real world. The main issue is that there are only a finite number of positions within performance sport, and it is unlikely that that number will dramatically increase. There is though an area that I think strength and conditioning can and should have a massive impact.
I did some work recently with someone who was preparing to go on a skiing holiday. They presented with a lot of the issues I’ve discussed in recent posts on S&C for skiing. This person was mid thirties and about to spend 4-6 hours a day for 5 days undertaking fairly high intensity exercise. We went through a very mild warm up activity, and after a minute had to stop to catch breath. Later in the session we were going through some basic exercises. A bodyweight squat, hands out in front and not even a quarter squat was achieved before knees very nearly touched together and the heels came off the floor. This person then expressed to me that they couldn’t see how anyone could move through a greater range without falling over. I’m not sure human evolution would have reached the levels it has if we existed with that kind of muscle capacity, we’d have been a pretty easy meal, that’s for sure.
Forget the active holiday, that’s inconsequential. There’s a very real public health issue here that needs to be addressed. In the not too distant future, there’s going to be a very swollen aged population in the country, most of which are going to have very real mobility problems unless they begin to build regular and well structured physical activity into their lives. I see the work that Kelvin Giles is doing as vitally important to the future health of the nation, the five in five program will increase the ability of children to participate in activity throughout their life and better prepare some for their sporting careers.
A gap will still exist though. The current adult population that had to endure reduction in physical activity in school, closing of public and school playing fields, the growth of convenience foods and the development of a sedentary TV/video game culture. It’s something that I find distressing. It will become a massive societal issue but it’s one that I believe strength and conditioning can have positive impact on. It will require some ingenuity to have an effect. It could be putting on sessions in community or church halls, building relationships with GPs, company occupational health staff or local authorities. Maybe there’s a role for the UKSCA there, to develop relationships with other organisations to educate and increase recognition of S&C.
This is something that could help a lot of people. The UK population first and foremost, the NHS would benefit through improved public health and a reduced usage and S&C would grow. There’s the potential to create more jobs in the field for the growing number of qualified coaches. Win win in my eyes.
We often expect a lot of our bodies. Many people spend 50 odd weeks a year working sat down at a desk and significant number of those choose to live a sedentary lifestyle away from their desks. Then, for those other 1 or 2 weeks left over, they go skiing and this is where the level expectancy increases. The human body is great at adapting, and it adapts very well to spending 8 hours a day sat down at a desk, this adaptation though is a little analogous to skiing. Protraction of the shoulders causing that hunched upper back and forward position of the head, tightness of the hip flexors and tightness of the hamstrings are all common, throw in high heels for the girls to shorten the calf and you tick all the boxes.
I’ve mentioned the issues associated with poor flexibility before, but spending all that time sat down will also adversely effect your upper body posture and core musculature in relation to skiing. An inability to use the muscles responsible for postural control in the back coupled with the anterior (front) dominance leads to a forward lean of the upper body, sticking out the bum and an inability to flex the ski boot. Consequently, you have limited control over the front of the ski from a performance angle and the development of a close relationship between your toes and the front of your ski boot.
You have 2 options, first to upsize your boot which, because of the position you’ll sit in it can make it harder to flex and maybe cause shin pain, blisters and even less control of the ski as your foot moves around inside it. Option 2 is to sort your body out. Not only will it help your skiing but it will improve bone health and reduce the incidence of common ailments like back pain (amongst many other benefits), but it will better prepare you to participate in activities that can take you away from a sedentary lifestyle making you fitter, happier and more productive.