KIHU's (Research Institute for Olympic Sports) aim is to find and test methods and devices that can help athletes. For measuring recovery and training load they have used Checkmylevel, which was being tested with the men’s national volleyball team.
Ease and quickness of use in a crucial role
Mikko Häyrinen and Aki Karjalainen, both experts at KIHU (Research Institute for Olympic Sports), tested the Checkmylevel product with the men’s national volleyball team at a training camp when the team was preparing for the European Volleyball Championship.
Häyrinen and Karjalainen wanted to trial various methods that can be used
to measure recovery and training load. At the camp, the players took the test
every morning and made notes of their overall condition.
“The measurements worked out well and also the athletes found them easy to
take. On top of that, even though it’s a big team we were able to use a smaller
number of devices, as everyone didn’t need a device of their own”, says Aki
Karjalainen, a development expert of ball games at KIHU.
A functional tool as part of the bigger picture
Mikko Häyrinen, too, appreciates the easiness and quickness of the tests, as it
saves the athlete’s time and energy. KIHU is also interested in measuring the
training load of the neuromuscular system with Checkmylevel, as there hasn’t
been a reliable method available for this purpose until now.
”An athlete is a complex combination of many things, and one test can’t give
answers to everything, but Checkmylevel can serve as a useful supportive tool
as one part of the bigger picture,” says Mikko Häyrinen, KIHU’s team sports
specialist and assistant coach of men’s national volleyball team.
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“For the team, the tests
were very easy and quick
- Mikko Häyrinen
“The Checkmylevel tests showed the readiness of an athlete for the games.” Petri Kettunen, Head Coach, Finland Men’s National Floorball
Petri Kettunen, Finland men’s national floorball team head coach of the 2016 world champions, made use of the data given by Checkmylevel during the important tournament. He wanted information about his athletes’ performance to find out their readiness for the games. Based on the results, he was able to make changes to his team’s line-up.
The tests pointed out sicknesses
The players carried out tests for two weeks. They started using Checkmylevel at a preparatory training camp, and then continued throughout the tournament week, doing the test every morning before breakfast. With the results, the head coach and the medical staff were able to monitor the athletes’ performance and the actual state of their body. The athletes themselves were not allowed to see their test results.
“The tests gave us the confirmation and assurance we were looking for about the state of the athlete’s body. During the week, some players fell sick, and Checkmylevel spotted these cases. The readings were extremely useful – with their help we knew in advance who needs to focus on getting better and take a day off,” Petri says.
Understanding the training needs
This time, the team applied the Checkmylevel test results only during the actual tournament week. According to Petri, using the product on a daily basis throughout the year would give the greatest benefits to athletes and coaches. The data would tell them how the athlete’s body responds to and endures different modes of training, also providing them with a better understanding of the training needs.
“When you combine these results to the other data available, we get the fullest possible picture of the status of an athlete’s body. This way we can count on each player being ready for the important games when they begin,” Petri says.“The Checkmylevel tests showed
Checkmylevel help you train right and be better.
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”Knowing the training readiness is key for optimal and smart performance.” Francisco J. Albert Garcia, Physical Coach, Real Valladolid CF
Francisco J. Albert, Ph.D. in Sports Medicine, is the strength & conditioning coach of Real Valladolid CF. He has also worked with a number of other teams, including Real Zaragoza, Real Club Celta de Vigo, CD Castellon and UD Salamanca.
One of the things he specifically stresses in training is the recovery process. Earlier, he had to rely solely on the athlete’s own evaluation of how they felt. Now he has used Checkmylevel for many years already, and it gives him just
the right tools to get objective data of the athletes’ training adaptation, helping him as a coach manage the training or competition load as needed.
Knowing the readiness of the athlete
Quite often fitness coaches tend to focus on the training load, but Fran
emphasizes the importance of the recovery process and the readiness of
an athlete. He points out that even though the athlete has had a day-off,
they may not have fully recovered yet.
“Using Checkmylevel helps me respect the balance between loading and
recovery to avoid prolonged fatigue and abnormal training responses. It
decreases the risk of injury and illness. Before Checkmylevel, I used to
keep track of sleep quality and quantity but that was not enough – there
are other factors that can influence the athlete’s recovery, too. Now, I can
monitor recovery and manage external and internal loads to optimally
configure training, competition and other loads to maximize performance
with minimal risk of injury,” says Fran.
Avoiding the risk of overtraining
Fran measures the athletes twice a week: first after a resting day and then just
before the weekend when the team usually has a match coming up. With the help
of the results, he gets to know what the recovery status of a player is and how
they can take in a training session or a match. By adjusting the training plan, he
can help them avoid overtraining and injuries.
“Checkmylevel is a reliable way to analyze the readiness of each athlete based
on the recovery level of their muscle system. We can find out if the athlete is in an
optimal condition considering performance. That’s extremely valuable because
poor load management could also be a major risk factor for injury,” Fran says.
As sports is becoming increasingly professional, coaches need to try new methods instead of relying on the same systems as always before says Head Coach Dr. David Cook, Norwegian National Taekwondo Team
When Dr. David Cook started working with the Norwegian National Taekwondo team he had a clear mission in mind:
to improve the level of the Norwegian National team so that qualification and success in Rio 2016 were realistic goals.
Quite quickly, however, he realized that even though he knew in principle what a professional athlete needs to develop and succeed, the complex nature of the human system and the many environmental interactions meant that ‘theory-in-practice’ required much more. They would lose important training days if they didn’t have a greater understanding of the athlete’s body and responses to training modality and load.
Gaining valuable information about recovery
As sports is becoming increasingly professional, coaches need to try new methods instead of relying on the same systems as always before. When David heard about Checkmylevel, he got really interested in the neuromuscular approach, which could provide important information about the state of neuromuscular fatigue.
“I have now used the system for over a year. Nowadays, I start my days by looking at the morning readings and they help me adjust the training for each athlete individually. Without Checkmylevel I would not be able to make as informed a decision with respect to athlete recovery. This type of information is very important for me as a coach” says David.
Pre-plan the training days and get better results
For the team, one of the concrete results of Checkmylevel has been avoiding
illnesses. As the human body is very complex, athletes don’t always feel
what’s going on in their bodies. Because of the daily measurements, David can get data from the actual state of an athlete’s body and pre-tune the training days accordingly.
“Of course, Checkmylevel is not the answer to everything, but for a lot of
coaches and athletes it can truly improve perspectives on training. It’s crucial
to know when you can work out hard and when you should take it easy.
Checkmylevel gives you a combined quantitative-qualitative measure which
is easy to understand and helps you in making decisions about how to train”
“Daily measurements show the actual state of the body and help you
adjust the training plan.”
Dr. David Cook
Head Coach Norwegian Taekwondo Team
Checkmylevel had a pleasure to host PhD Francisco J. Albert García at the end of April. Fran has PhD on sports medicine; Thesis: Effects of b-hydroxy-b-methylbutyrate supplementation on muscle function in football. He has also worked as a strength coach for example with Real Zaragoza, Real Club Celta de Vigo, CD Castellon and UD Salamanca.
Fran, how do you see the relationship between science and coaching?
I think that it is must that we work very close together as scientists and coaches because coaches are at the frontline to see the problem and they can ask some help to solve some practical problem from scientists that had studied that problem as in theory.
In my case I try to combine science and coaching. I think it’s important that if you have academic background that you don’t leave it behind but you use it with the players to find solutions for their problems. You read about it from other studies you research it and you talk with other scientists all around the world.
Jens Bangsbo once said: “Football is not the science but science can help football”. This can help us to understand how we can apply science to sports and this can also motivate students that want to be fitness coaches. It’s important that all the technical staff work closely together with the researchers because they both need each others to be better. It is our responsibility to be up dated and knowing about new research results that can help to improve people we train. Only research can’t solve the problems because every athlete is an individual within a team context and every team is different.
Were you first a scientist or were you a coach first?
While I was studying my PhD I was coaching 3rd division team. I got a chance to go abroad to study but at the same time I got an offer to coach a professional team. I was very young and therefore I had almost none experience of coaching or playing as a professional but I never forgot the academic studies. In my case I can’t separate where the coaching starts and science end, it’s not black and white.
What is the most important or difficult thing that coach can do to get the athlete to do his best?
It is important to develop your exercises taking into account your player characteristics, your style of play, philosophy of club and coach. To develop as a football player your training has to be individualized for your position and your background. Regardless it’s important for team dynamics that we end practice together for example small game.
Can team be more than its players?
We say that in football the team is more than its sum, it’s the synergy generated by the team members. It’s multiplied if everyone does their best and they are positive. Being positive is not always that they are happy. It can mean making jokes when needed, being good brother, being serious when needed and being hard worker. That can increase power of your team, even multiply it. Sport psychology can help coaches and tell them how to use this phenomenon.
What do you think are the most important qualities of a top level athlete, both physically and mentally?
You have to show passion for the thing you are doing. It’s hard to be an elite athlete because you have so much pressure. We always see the beautiful part when we see athletes on TV or on the field but there are lot of work behind it by the athlete and his friend and family. You aren’t always so motivated but you have to think about the goal you want to achieve. You have to be mentally strong.
How you see fatigue on a team or can you see it on a team?
We have to take on account the mental fatigue, neuro-muscular fatigue or maybe the central fatigue and the peripheral fatigue. I think in most cases fatigues are in relation to each other. We can’t think the one without the other. You can do the same exercises, travel the same way and do everything the same way physically but you also have to change things so you can wake up the brain and give brains some new energy. This mental energy can help the athlete to recover better from physical fatigue.
How do you see the balance between training, matches and rest during the season?
Today we are giving more emphasis to recovery and this is good news. We have known for a long time that recovery is important. To recover you have to take into account individual characteristics inside the team dynamic. The team can recover only if we take care of individual response to the fatigue. Knowing this can help them to decrease their risk to get injured. Sometimes we coaches forget that training is training load plus the recovery period.
For me it’s important to give more emphasis to recovery when schedule is full of matches every week. There are many ways to track players’ recovery. Some of them are cheaper and easier and some of them are more complex. And it’s important that everyone can find good set of methods to check his team’s recovery. I think it’s important to explain to the athlete why gather the information of his recovery and this information is only used to help him to train better individually to win. It’s important that the player knows that recovery tools are used to help to decide how to train so he can be at his best on the next game. For the coach and team it’s important to win before the match and one way of doing this is to have all your players available.
Thank you Fran!
Norwegian National Taekwondo Team started to use Checkmylevel about a year ago. Their Head Coach Dr David Cook decided that athletes will have two accounts each and they will do assessments every morning and evening. Checkmylevel provides the option to hide all the results from the athletes and only coaches can see them, Coach Cook decided to also use this option. We got short user review from Tina Røe Skaar, full-time Norwegian National Taekwondo Team.
The Checkmylevel system is to me a valuable tracking device for monitoring my health situation. As a full-time athlete training almost every day, staying healthy is my first priority. Without having the energy and being able to perform when it is necessary, making continuous progress, improving and steadily achieving new targets becomes a challenge. Trying to become the best athlete is a challenge itself, and that is why it is helpful to have a tool that helps monitor my recovery, as this is directly linked to my overall health. My physician from the Olympic support team states that staying healthy is the most important thing to succeed as an athlete, and this is where the Checkmylevel device is important.
To be in good health as an athlete, it is crucial to make the right decisions and priorities in your everyday life. Factors like sleep, restitution, diet and nutrition, hygiene and mental well-being are all important for good health. To assist in making the right decisions with my own health, the Checkmylevel works as a strong addition to the coach-player dynamic. The National team coach tracks the daily changes (morning and evening) of the scores associated with the Checkmylevel system. Actual results are seen solely by our coach who then shares with us when necessary and adapts our sessions (individually or group) appropriately. This has been a positive approach, as we already have many things to deal with already in our daily lives as athletes.
The Checkmylevel device easily fits into my daily routines. I use the Checkmylevel twice a day, after I wake up in the morning and right before I go to bed. When using the Checkmylevel you use the reusable electrodes that and your phone with the downloaded Checkmylevel application. The electrodes are easily placed on the left arm, before you plug it into the Checkmylevel device and connect the bluetooth on the device to your phone. The "Checking my level"-process lasts no more than approximately 5 seconds. At the end of each session the device also has a subjective measure that considers training intensity etc., which enables an objective-subjective relationship to be made. The data that comes in every day gets logged and saved on my user-ID in the application, making it possible to monitor the results using graphs and statistics that the application generates. After setting a baseline (approximately 7 days) you can after a period of use, analyse days with low scores or sickness, and start to identify patterns that may be causal factors. The scores are based on percentages and colour codes. Green means you are ready for training, yellow means you are okay, but it is not ideal and might need adapted training; and orange/red that the health status is low and you should rest or maybe seek a physician. This system makes it very simple to make sense of.
The Checkmylevel is an easy device to use, and has been very helpful for me since I started using it. Personally, as an athlete I have been prone to illness, resulting in breaks and periods off training. Checkmylevel system had made these situations easier to identify and in turn put in strategies to deal with. As such, I believe the Checkmylevel system is a valuable tool for any athlete or active person wanting to keep track of their health, and to more easily read their body ‘signals’ to maintain an active lifestyle.
Checkmylevel had a short interview with sprint coach Håkan Andersson. He has worked over 30 years as a coach including few years as national relay coach. He now coaches sprinters like Johan Wissman (20,30/44,56), Tom Kling-Baptiste (6,65/10,29/20,87, Stefan Tärnhuvud (6,67/10,35). He also hosts every year The Sundsvall Windsprint www.windsprint.se, international sprint and hurdle carnival.
Håkan, could you tell us about your coaching philosophy?
I think that a key component for a success and long-term development is to understand and take into consideration that athletes are individuals with different mindset, physiological genome and training background. There is also the relationship between the athlete’s current state and the response to a given training load. As a coach you have to understand that two individuals might respond very differently to the same stimulus and one individual might not respond to a training load today in the same way as he/she did last week, month or year. To predict how an athlete is going to respond to training is difficult to say the least.
To program an optimal relationship between load and adaptation is very complex, determined by numerous variables, some are well explored but some is still to be.
As a coach I have to take into considerations for example
Fatigue is not necessary your enemy, but in fact an important part of the adaptation process. Fatigue is not a simple reaction to training and competition; it is a complex array of responses that trigger changes to different systems of the body. As I see it overtraining in a the more general term is not a major problem in sprinting, but so is lack of long term speed development and injuries that in both cases can be overreactions to overload and inability to make acute but sometimes necessary adjustments in the training you have planned and prescribed.
One way to safeguard against overload is being more precise to the cause and effect of training by measuring both the workout and the fatigue from it. Measuring just one is helpful, but measuring both gives the coach a monitoring gauge how the body responds to training and how to adjust sessions in the future.
What do you think are the most important qualities/ feature of a top-level sprinter, both physically and mentally?
That sprinting is a “genetic sport” goes without saying. Everybody can develop speed but the rooms for improvements are limited. This span is if you are lucky and maintain healthy usually less than 10% for an entire career and less than 1% per year. In term of physical qualities the ability to relax while producing very high forces in extremely brief time frames is crucial, the ground contact time for a top level sprinter is for example in full flight under 0,09 seconds. Most big sprinting finals are mind games. Everybody is very talented to begin with, everybody is also well trained and prepared. Who will win has usually very little to do with all that though since the winner is usually the person that is able to relax the most while his body is swimming in a sea of adrenaline and extreme arousal.
How do you see the balance between training, competition and rest during the season?
Within the competitive season there is usually a lot more psychological than pure physiological stress to handle as in the preparatory stages. But also here we see large individual differences in the ability to wire down after competitions, to cope with sometimes rather extended and tough travels and constant changes of environments. The people can cope this can usually compete more frequent while others will benefit more from a less frequent competition schedule and instead train more.
Why did you choose Checkmylevel system to assist you in monitoring your athletes and their recovery?
To have an open and honest communicating between coach and athletes is in my mind absolutely crucial but in my experience it is sometimes very difficult for an athlete to be completely objective and even honest, especially in new coach/athlete relationships. The questioning how do you feel today is important but sometimes there is a too fine of a line between optimal training and recovery to be noticed. On the extreme sides underpreparing by going to conservative is rare but being too aggressive is definitely too common and very easy lead into stales and/or injuries.
The Checkmylevel test is very quickly to conduct for the athletes. Both the hardware and the software is very easy to use and I especially like the feature that I personally can switch of the athletes ability to see his/her own testing scores. That particular feature has shown essential for most top-level athletes that tend to be some slightly “neurotic”, especially in the middle of the competitive season. With Checkmylevel I have found an objective compliment to verbal communication, diaries and questioners and most important; as a coach I get an instant feedback in terms of the athlete’s recovery state and readiness to perform the training I have planned for that particular day or period.
Thank you Håkan!
At the beginning of the summer there was an article on Tempaus-magazine which is magazine of Finnish weightlifting association.
Here is short English summary of the article.