The current post is the culmination of a three-part series on coaching athletic movement. In the opening part of the series, we delved into the ‘why’, and sought to elucidate what roles we have to play in this space. With part two we got into the ‘what’, and proposed that the lenses of mechanical effectiveness and efficiency might unite our aims in both performance and injury realms. With this final instalment, we get into the ‘how’, and provide some practical guidance on how we might deliver what we outlined in part two, and ultimately fulfill the roles we identified in part one.
Athletes and coaches across all sports incessantly speak about the importance of 'focussing on the process', and process goals. As coaches and practitioners we are likewise ever mindful of scheduling constraints and the need to make best use of the finite time permitted to prepare our athletes. In previous posts we have spoken about the importance of mobilising mental resources, and the critical role of athletes' perception in relation to training responses. Here we will venture into the realms of teaching and learning, in order to make meaningful use of the notion of 'process focus' in the context of sport. In our quest for more purposeful training we will explore the concept of 'meta-learning', and outline how these principles might be applied to the process and the practice of preparing athletes.
In the spheres of performance science much attention is paid to 'athlete health'. It has become widely recognised that lifestyle factors are critical, not only mediating performance and training adaption, but also impacting upon injury and illness. Despite such growing awareness, until very recently the notion of coach or practitioner health has not been widely considered in the same way. For the first time, important discussions on the topics of coach and practitioner health are being held more widely. For instance, coach health in the field of strength and conditioning was recently featured on the very popular Pacey Performance Podcast. These discussions have raised important issues in relation to the unique challenges presently faced by practitioners operating in the information age. In addition to exploring these issues in more depth in this post, more importantly we will examine strategies and tools to help negotiate these challenges, and ultimately find a way of working that is sustainable in the long term.
For many years I have employed a mobility series prior to each day's training. Over the period I have refined the selection, and as we will see the mobility exercises employed borrows heavily from yoga. This practice is designed to serve two distinct purposes. Clearly one key objective is to prepare the athlete for the session to come. The second function is to allow the coach, practitioner and the athlete themselves to discern how their body is moving on each day. In turn this can serve to guide any self therapy or performance therapy intervention needed to address the area of restriction or altered function detected during the course of the athlete's daily mobility routine.
More enlightened training environments (notably AltisWorld) are throwing light on the benefits of ready access to performance therapy on a daily basis at the training facility. Whilst a growing audience is taking note, the reality for the majority of athletes is that they remain in less evolved systems and training environments that lack this provision. For the unfortunate majority self-therapy tools offer a substitute to hands-on manual therapy. In part one of this post we made the selection of what self-therapy tools merit the precious space in an athlete's kit bag. In this follow-up post we will now discuss the what, when and how.
I read with interest a recent article entitled 'Iliotibial Band Syndrome: Please do not use a foam roller!' from esteemed sports physician Andrew Franklyn-Miller. I moved away from using foam rolling some years ago, so it was interesting to see this. There is some data to support the efficacy of self massage using a foam roller to improve range of motion and other functional measures. However, by its nature the foam roller is a blunt tool. Applying compression over such a large area, the foam roller is too imprecise to be useful for self-myofascial release via trigger point therapy. Morever, excessive and non-selective use of foam rolling has the potential to cause more trauma to the tissues than good. This discussion also prompted the topic of this two-part post - if not the foam roller, which of the growing array of self-therapy and recovery tools on the market is worth the investment and space in the athlete's kit bag? In part two, we will explore in more detail how to best use those tools that make the cut, with some examples.