During my time at the University of Maryland, our weight room was in close proximity to both the basketball court and player locker rooms. It was a great set up and it allowed us to keep our eyes on the athletes. Like most D1 athletes, their schedules are chaotic due to class, study hall, practice, individual workouts, meetings, and time in the weight room. As S&C coaches, we had front row seats to the organized madness which was the athlete’s everyday norm. Don’t get me wrong, the structure is necessary for the success of the athlete, however, it can sometimes be overwhelming for their development.
Let’s think about the freshman athlete as a 12oz cup. All the support staff around them are holding a gallon jug of “work” and are all simultaneously pouring their share into the cup. As we continue to pour, the cup overflows. Yet, we continue to pour each of our gallons into the small cup. Now, are we really going to blame the cup for the overflow?
Guess what we do? We blame the cup. The cup is out of shape. The cup doesn’t work hard enough. Why aren’t we seeing the adaptations we anticipated?
Unfortunately, the body does not adapt to a stimulus if you continue to stress it beyond its capacity. We overflow these athletes with stress and then blame them for the mess. The goal in training is not what the athlete can endure but what the athlete can express.
I am now in the private sector and don’t have a front row seat to watch the daily grind. I only see my athlete 2-3 hours per week.
I don’t know what their high school practice looked like.
I don’t know what their dad made them do after practice.
I don’t know what their skills coach did with them this morning.
So now I have to ask more questions. Fortunately, we have the ability to monitor multiple health and performance parameters using the Omegawave Team System to make timely decisions based on the status of the individual. This gives us a view of the psychological and physiological stress the athlete is under. The Omegawave data allows us to see how big the athletes “cup” is and how much work we can pour into it. If an athlete’s heart is already stressed to the point of fatigue from work outside of the gym, then a strenuous program may not be the answer. We must keep in sight what is truly important, which is keeping our athletes healthy with an accompanying increase in performance.
John is a 17-year-old baseball pitcher; He plays in a summer league which consists of playing six games every weekend. He also has 6 hours of additional work with his pitching and hitting coaches every week, and when he gets the chance to eat, it’s typically fast food on the road. Not to mention he only gets 5 hours of sleep because of late night fights with his girlfriend. John’s dad sends him in to train with the hopes of adding muscle mass and strength. Here is John’s Omegawave:
Think of the Omegawave as John’s dashboard in his car. The check engine light is on from the standpoint of John’s overall readiness to train. John’s foot is on the pedal, so his autonomics are shifted more towards the sympathetic side. Now the air filter light is on as well with a detox score of two – this system is under duress. This is compounded with a low hormonal score. Lastly, he is not putting enough gas in the tank. This is indicated through the Metabolic Reaction Index, which gives us an idea of energy supply/recovery.
So what does this tell us about John today?
His cup is almost full. So, the gallon of “work” is put to the side and only a few ounces are poured today. Based on his results, a dialogue may need to be started regarding his ability to recover. The fact that his recovery capabilities are low indicates he may not be fueling his body with enough energy to perform at a high level. If the trend continues unchanged, a deeper dive may be needed to investigate what’s going on under the hood, which may entail lab work or a dietary recall. The goal is to create just the right amount of stimulus to allow for adaptation. Depending on the period, we might just do soft tissue work along with some corrective exercises. Maybe you need to hit some low-end aerobic work or some light multi-planar movement. This is truly where the art of coaching comes into play and each individual’s situation is unique.
But what happens when we do overflow the athlete’s cup?
In comes Billy who is in the middle of his off-season basketball training program. A high-intensity day is planned and so far he has been making great progress. In the private sector, there are multiple individuals trying to give the athlete the best care they possibly can. However, without communication between the multiple coaches, it can sometimes amass to a stressor that was not previously predicted. This is what happens to Billy’s physiology when there is a breakdown in communication.
Houston, we have a problem.
Billy’s aerobic score dropped from 150 to 22 in less than 48 hours with an S wave taking a huge nose dive. It’s evident from his ECG that his QRS wave has gone through a shift from a positive morphology to a negative one. Since Thursday was a rest day, we need to start asking questions. Sure enough, we discover the athlete has accumulated extra volume outside of the gym working on other aspects of their game. During the workout, for every shot he missed, he had to run sprints. Part of this workout also included low recovery times between efforts. Here is where we find value in an athlete’s Aerobic Index.
“You are only as good as your ability to deliver oxygen and utilize oxygen” Val Nasedkin
The Aerobic Index gives coaches an idea of how well the athlete can deliver oxygen, as well as how well they can recover from training. If this score pops up low when the athlete walks in, it may not be best to stress the cardiac system intensively. If we did not have the ability to look into the athlete’s physiology and preceded with the prescribed workout, we may have potentially dug a bigger hole, therefore, decreasing the athlete’s ability to adapt without driving further compensations. We, as coaches, must adapt and have Billy focus on recovery today. We need to understand that optimizing health and performance is a journey with no shortcuts.
The body will adapt to what you feed it, so it’s critical we continue in a positive direction. Training hard has its time and place, and when this moment arises we will give the athlete exactly what they need to keep progressing in the weight room and in their sport. However, if the body is not ready to adapt, it’s not time to crush them. All in all, training isn’t a given here at TAE, it is something that needs to be earned.