This blog entry focuses on training for the skeleton event during the late summer of 2013, with one athlete who was on holiday without his coach. The recorded training diary demonstrates the precision and sensitivity of the CHECK™ system when assessing neuromuscular fatigue from speed and power training. The athlete involved used the system over 26 days during and exhaustive training regimen. For privacy purposes the nationality and athlete’s name was anonymous for the article.
The experiment performed wanted to see how sensitive the CHECK™ system was in assessing fatigue of the neuromuscular system. After hearing about the monitoring device, the idea of using the sensor daily in conjunction with sport specific jump testing and practice runs was suggested by a high performance advisor. The data was collected over a period of three weeks, after nine days of baseline assessment. Weightlifting and physiotherapy sessions were recorded and the conclusion suggested that a strong relationship exists with CHECK™ readiness scores, and estimated training demand. Correspondence between athlete and coach was done that summer with Google hangout after breakfast, and after the neuromuscular assessment was completed.
For a period of three microcycles (weeks) the athlete engaged in resistance training programs, cardiovascular endurance workouts, and took part in his physiotherapy sessions. Morning testing was done using the CHECK™ device at 08:00 every morning and reported soreness was emailed to the masseur. Workouts remained unchanged regardless of morning CHECK™ score, but workouts were adjusted based on tightness of lower spine musculature on the second and third microcycles. The goal of the training week was to achieve three intense training sessions safely without accumulating too much fatigue. The total of ten full effort days were achieved in the training period, with three travel days included. In every microcycle, the athlete was given one complete day of rest. Each week a full day of recovery techniques such massage therapy and guided relaxation recordings were incorporated into his routine. The accommodation did not provide hydrotherapies or a sauna, so the athlete elected to do stationary running in the hotel pool. All training was done at the university athletics facility, including power exercises.
Each daily session lasted between 1-3 hours, and allowed for social time and touring the local historical landmarks and museums. The athlete and coach compromised on training based on available training facilities and time allotted, making training short and purposeful. Two major training areas were under renovation so some adjustments were done to train with the local club athletes when necessary.
The outdoor facilities included artificial turf and areas for preparation training. Most of the training was bounding and upright sprints of 60 meters of length. Every session included a repeat jump test with a linear position transducer, with the top score recorded out of three trials. Two sessions were done indoors because of rain and scheduling problems. The athlete performed power snatches from blocks and pull-down exercises for the back musculature. Each week eight sets of snatches and 4 sets of pull-downs were performed at similar percentages.
A 12 station training circuit, with the inclusion of torso exercises and pneumatic equipment was designed to help the athlete reduce body fat and provide cardiorespiratory conditioning. Each exercise lasted approximately 45 seconds and had a 10 second transition time. After one trip through the circuit the athlete was allowed full recovery, 5 minutes, and repeated the sequence two more times.
The hotel fitness center provided stationary bikes that were compatible with a consumer heart rate strap. The athlete chose a height that was appropriate and did a continuous steady bike session for 30 minutes. Heart rate was between 130-150 beats per minute and perceived exertion was about a 6 or 7 on a scale of 1-10. The athlete complained of low back cramping and changed position to relieve discomfort.
A handball court provided 25-30 meters of acceleration and 18 meters of additional length for decelerating. A gymnastics pad was placed vertically to help reduce chances of thigh strains from rapid deceleration. The practice sled included additional weight and included fixed wheels at appropriate height. Each sprint consisted of 20 meters all out running with the sled followed by a gradual upright run until a full stop at the wall. At the end of the deceleration the athlete would jump to the side shoulder first.
Every Thursday at 10:30 AM the athlete received a full body massage with a concentration on the erectors, hamstrings, and calves. Each session lasted 90 minutes and was followed by a lunch at the nearby café. The rest of the day was spent relaxing or visiting local museums with his girlfriend.
A neuromuscular assessment was done first thing in the morning using the CHECK™ system, followed by breakfast at the hotel. Each microcycle followed the same alternating trend of fatigue and recovery and performances matched the pattern of fatigue. For example, all jumps and sprint times correlated with the CHECK™ scores on the speed and power training days. Recovery of heart rate didn’t match the circuit days with the CHECK™ scores, but they were closer than the bike sessions at the hotel. Perceived exertion and logged soreness closely resembled the same trends as they CHECK™ numbers, but the scale was not appropriate for true scientific comparison.
A quick scan of the chart divulges how each microcycle of training followed a similar fatigue and recovery pattern, yet also showed enough difference to expose the differences one may expect with the human body. The third microcycle suggested that overreaching may be starting, but planned rest was implemented on the fourth microcycle so it was not a problem.
Using the CHECK™ the athlete and the coach were able to see the clear relationship between speed and power evaluation with neuromuscular readiness. Not only did the CHECK™ system show parallels to fatigue, it had the precision to predict performance to the slightest differences. Using neuromuscular testing daily can monitor training and have enough validity to confidently show cause and effect of training load to daily readiness. Both the coach and the athlete were pleased with the experiment and plan to try using it for an entire season next year.