On Thursday night I attended the North East Strength and Conditioning Forum at Newcaslte Uni. As always this is a great event and a chance for all of the local coaches to get together and talk about all things related to training.
This session focused on Recovery and Regeneration and I kicked things off with a presentation that gave an overview of the whole area. We looked at the various types of fatigue and the different intervention strategies before introducing the group to the recovery pyramid.
Friend and Colleague, Nigel Stockill then demonstrated some innovative equipment that has been developed by Optima Life to help coaches and athletes keep an eye on training load. Using heart rate variability and EPOC the heart rate monitor can provide the coach and athlete with a useful tool for monitoring training stress, allowing them to programme appropriate recovery methods.
The final session was deliverd by Dr Duncan French (head S&C for GB Basketball), despite being a doctor Dunc has a real ability to cut things right back to what really is effective in a real world situation. His presentation followed on nicely from mine and he focused on how to get 'easy wins' when working with his players and we were fortunate enough to be shown exactly what Dunc does to help his players recover whilst competing (these guys had 27 flights in 6 weeks last year - that gives you an idea of why recovery is so important for them).
Whilst everyone seems to be jumping on the recovery bandwagon, and I still believe it has an important part to play in the training process, I decided to throw a spanner in the works and ask a couple of questions to get everyone thinking.
1. Many athletes report perceived quicker recovery and an bility to increase training load...but this is not always a concurrent improvement in performance! Should we be messing around with the bodies natural recovery mechanisms?
2. Immediate use of artificial means which facilitate restoration (recovery) can weaken the natural ability of the body to restore itself and promote supercompensation. Is muscle damage a pre-requisite for hypertrophy? Could this increase the risk of 'overtraining' (UPS) or injury?
3.Prolonged use of any given means of restoration (recovery) will decrease the recuperative effect. Eastern block experts recommend that the same recovery strategy should not be applied more than once or twice a week in the same form.
Can research findings be generalised to athletic population? Might recovery strategies offer short-term benefits at the expense of long-term adaptation?
Duncan French followed up on my thoughts and suggested that maybe we have this whole thing back to front. We are so busy worrying about getting people recovered as soon as possible that we could in fact be negating some of the processes that we actually need to enhance performance. He made two very useful observations:
1. Are we looking to recover from a training stimulus ready for the next training session, or are we looking to recover from a match ready for the next one? If we are looking to recover from training then we may actaully want to leave the body to do it's own thing. Chris Barnes from Middlesborough FC spoke to me after the session about research looking at the heat proteins that are needed for many of the adapations we look for from training. Research is now showing that some recovery methods such as cold baths may in fact blunt the functioning of these heat proteins. If we are looking to get ready for another game then, yes, we may actually want to help speed the recovery process up.
2. Instead of thinking about RECOVERY....we should be focusing on PRECOVERY (I know, he has spent far too long in America!). When working with his players Duncan spends the majority of his time making sure they are in the best possible physical state before they start to train or recover and this is done by putting in place interventions that take effect long before training event starts (training diaries, sleep/naps, pre-workout meals).
It was a great night and the main message to come from it was that whilst recovery and regeneration is very important, we should really be focusing on getting the basics right before attempting anything else.