Sports science has many elements!

Sports science is often associated with high profile Olympic sports such as marathon running, triathlon and track events. However, elements of sports science can be used in a variety of ways across a full spectrum of sports. Over the last three years, I’ve been involved in helping champion Motocross rider, Mel Pocock prepare for his winter training with Sol Gilbert.  With a relatively small training window of 6-8 weeks, Sol has the job of getting Mel and several other riders ‘race ready’ for the forthcoming season.

These guys are highly trained athletes. Motocross requires the active involvement of the entire musculoskeletal system and the utilisation of both the aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. The sport places unique performance demands on the athlete due to the varying factors such as course terrain, obstacles, forces from the bike and the impact of landing. During a competitive race, heart rate, oxygen uptake and blood lactate are maintained at a level around the second lactate threshold which is comparative to running a 10,000 m race (Konttinen et al, 2008). Determining the physiological profile of a rider is an essential part of a structured training program geared towards improving the rider’s ability to withstand the rigours of competition.

In addition to strength and power, motocross riders must have a high maximal aerobic capacity that physiologists would associated with maximal oxygen consumption (V̇O2max), a good aerobic endurance or capacity to sustain a high percentage of their V̇O2max for a long time, alongside good skills and technique so that they can perform with minimal energy expenditure.

My role is to focus on one aspect of Mel’s physiological potential, namely aerobic endurance by using blood lactate profiling. The information from the treadmill test we carried out last week has been used to set training zones for his high intensity and threshold run training. These accurate and bespoke training zones help to ensure Mel’s training is optimised and mitigate potential overtraining.

Blood lactate profiling can help customise your own training plans and, when performed more than once in a season, are a good indicator of your training progress - CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS

Monitoring your training

I think we all know that athletes  need to hard in order to improve. However, many athletes new to endurance sports may not appreciate that adaptive training gains can only be maximised to a threshold point.

Beyond this point, additional training will not produce further performance gains and could lead to overtraining and athlete ‘burn-out’.

A certain level of fatigue is needed in order to activate essential physiological repair mechanisms. With adequate recovery, the fatigue will disappear and adaptation will occur making your stronger and fitter! Sometimes, as we begin to increase training, we may find ourselves trying to balance an increased training load and inadequate recovery which could result in overtraining. Your training load is influenced by the amount of training (volume) and intensity.

There are a number of different ways to try and quantify training load including real-time observation/measurements, physiological monitoring (heart rate, blood lactate concentrations and oxygen consumption) during training sessions and obtaining a subjective estimate of an athlete’s training load. A quick and easy way for us all to track our training load is to use a diary to record how we felt after each session.

Using a simplified exertion scale, where 0 = rest and 10 = maximal effort, rate your effort (how hard you thought you were working during the session) and multiply it by the length, in minutes, of your training session.

This will give you a session rate of perceived exertion (s-RPE) which can be added to all your other sessions that week to provide you with an overall training load for the week. This can be used as a tool ensure that you are adhering to a periodised training programme and benefiting from the cyclical recovery weeks. It can also you detect when you may not coping with your training because you tend to submit higher s-RPE scores for similar sessions carried out in the previous week or month.

This is such a simple way to help ensure you are optimising your training you'd be silly not to give it a try!