Finding that Extra Energy
Finding that Extra Energy
by James Skitt - 01.07.10
With at least two World Cup matches having already gone into extra time and following the mammoth efforts of messers Isner and Mahut at Wimbledon last week, the qualities of athletes who can keep going beyond the normal limits has been brought into focus.
Whether it be a seemingly never ending fifth set or a tense period of extra time, the ability of athletes to keep going, both physically and mentally, can be crucial in achieving success at the very highest level.
eis2win spoke to English Institute of Sport (EIS) Strength and Conditioning coach Alex Natera, who works with a range of sports including women’s football and rugby, to find out more about how sport science and medicine practitioners can play their part in preparing athletes for such scenarios.
“In the training periods that lead up to a major tournament it is vital that metabolic conditioning reflects the specific demands of a match situation” he says.
“Time motion analysis is commonly used to design specific metabolic conditioning programmes whereby the distance covered, changes of direction, intensity of movement (jogging, walking, sprinting) and the work: rest intervals in match play are used in the prescription of a conditioning programme.”
“However, this sort of training alone will not physiologically prepare a player for the additional energy requirements that can occur in some matches and most certainly not for the extreme circumstance of extra-time.
“It is therefore vital to train players outside of their regular boundaries, which will include pushing their normal work: rest ratios, distance covered and the intensity of distances covered.”
But as many athletes will testify, being fit and being match fit don’t necessarily go hand in hand.
“The distance covered by an athlete during a typical match actually under-estimates the energy they will need so it is important to add in specific movements such as backwards running, decelerating and changing direction, lateral shuffling, jumping etc and push the boundaries with these high fatigue inducing movement patterns as well.
“All this needs to be done well in advance of competition as the precise lead up to a match is all about recovery from the previous match, maximising muscle glycogen levels through nutrient intake and being in a strong mental state to contribute maximally to performance and, if need be, be able to re-boot psychologically for the instance of extra-time.”
So just how best can athletes ensure they strike a balance of giving 100% but hold enough energy in reserve for extra time if needed?
“An athlete simply can’t go into a match thinking about a possible extra-time event” Natera insists.
“Their prime focus must be on giving their all and holding nothing in reserve, even if the score is level in the late stages of a game. However the backroom staff of coaches, nutritionists, strength and conditioning coaches and psychologists need to be preparing for this eventuality well ahead of schedule.”
“Coaches will need to be tactically astute with their substitutions, whilst nutritionists need to make sure hydration levels are maintained and that muscle glycogen stores are replenished with rigorous high GI carbohydrate ingestion, whilst strength and conditioning coaches need to be able to have prepared the players well enough to be able to cope with the extreme demands.
“What’s more, the players will be suffering from high levels of fatigue which will be exacerbated in instances of extra-time, and once glycogen stores have been replenished the players need to know that the training they have done and the metabolic adaptations that have created by their training will allow them to finish, so there is certainly a large psychological element in there preparation too.”
“It is vitally important that the players are made aware that they can physically cope with extra-time, as they have done it before in training and their energy systems have been fully adapted to cope with the extra energy requirements that are needed. Most elite athletes will be aware of this and instead will be fully immersed in the tactics that are being instructed to them by their coach, however active recovery is vital in those moments preceding a period of extra time, and the players will need to keep on the move as maintenance of muscle temperature is important.”
“Nutritional input is also key in these moments. High GI carbohydrate drinks and fluids need to be consumed to replenish muscle glycogen stores and to re-hydrate the tissues. Caffeine gums* can also be chewed to release rapidly absorbed caffeine which, although it may not fully peak for the duration of extra-time, will help to delay further fatigue and give the players an extra boost of energy.”
For those that successfully come through it, extra time has the added effect on recovery post match, as Natera explains.
“There’s no question that extra-time is severely taxing and will impact directly on normal recovery practices. A team that has had to play extra time compared to one that hasn’t will be at a distinct physical disadvantage were they to meet in the next round.
“Immediate replenishment of muscle glycogen is important post-match and protein in recovery will also need to be monitored and reflect the added muscular stress and energy expenditure experienced.
“The days between the next match will need to reflect more rest than would have originally been planned and could directly impact on the amount of technical training that is able to take place as well.
Normal recovery practices will probably be intensified and absolute rest and nutrition should be prioritised.
The fresher, better recovered team will be at an advantage physically but skill and tactics will still be key to the result.”
* Please note: Athletes should always seek advise from a qualified nutritionist before taking any supplements.
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