Recommendations for Health and Performance in Sport and Life
Tim Exeter - Ex-rugby player and sport-specific fitness coach
Get the basics in place whatever your age! If you want to experience a healthier life with more enjoyable sports participation, improved sports performance and reduce the risk of injury.
By the basics I mean in the following areas -
We were designed to move, to not be inactive. The human body is incredibly complex, it is the same as leaving a performance car locked in a garage for months.
Nutrition and Fluids
All the supplements, vitamins, sports drinks are a waste of time and money if your regular food intake is of poor quality, again an often used.
Balance training with recovery modalities. You cannot train or live flat out all the time.
Remember - there are no shortcuts.
Running before walking in everything we do is a real problem. With today’s quick fix society looking for easy quick results with diet, earning money, in sport quick training and competition results.
It is vital for overall health not just sports. Our body works better with movement, all our systems are inter-dependent , the organs depend on movement and support from the postural musculature and diaphragm for example.
Get back to Movement skill basics for a complete preparation. Running, jumping, climbing, crawling, pushing, pulling, twisting, squatting, lunging, tumbling, catching and kicking.
However it is not difficult or expensive to prepare, it is using the basics movement skills as a form of training. (Gyms full of machines that take the stability element of training away do not help!)
During my childhood we all played outside until it was dark, ran everywhere or cycled, jumped, threw, kicked and hit things, we were naturally preparing ourselves on a daily basis for sport and adult life.
Society today is more sedentary than ever, so whether its kids or adults, the Western World has changed, Manual work (like manufacturing and farming) is dying on its feet and general health and Athletic potential with it. (This presents real issues for Spine and cardiovascular health and motor skills.) Too much time spent in Cars, at Computers and Office jobs.
Whether it’s children in their formative years, or Adults who work all day and then go training at night with their team, if they are sat down most of the day they are an injury waiting to happen.
Crawling (tummy and on all fours)– the most fundamental movement we perform in our lives!
It prepares our neuromuscular system for later life, by developing our motor and balance skills. A word for parents, if you have a new baby or are expecting one soon, do not rush them to walking. Cutting short this key phase will lead to impaired movement skills in later life.
To be able to perform any sport skills requires a support structure of movement skills, such as balance, coordination, structural strength, structural stability and structural flexibility Simply changing direction in any multi directional sport requires a complex mix of muscle and Central nervous system control, sometimes the body will be stressed b y 4-5G on a change of direction! If the basic preparatory work and strength is not there you could be asking for trouble. There will always be talented players, great hand eye coordination, flair etc BUT if they are fatigued and operating 40-50% of ability or time, they are not so talented and cannot contribute to the team.
Too much early specialization leads to plateaus in skill development and increased exposure to injury. During my time at Northampton Saints in addition to the professional players I ran the Academy physical training programme. A pattern emerged that young players were arriving lacking basic movement skills and strength. This needed addressing. Some even had to be taught to run properly!
Long Term Athletic Development Programme
I developed after much research this programme to ensure that from 12 years old (the earliest we had access to young players) their programme in all aspects of fitness was progressive and would ensure they became better athletically prepared and ultimately less susceptible to injury. Such a programme needs to be put in place at schools and junior clubs in many sports.
Danger for youngsters
Straight to weight training – but they can’t handle own bodyweight! Particularly in rugby there exists a Gym Monkey mentality but the problem is some players that can push tremendous heavy weight are often incapable of handling their own bodyweight. They are only strong in certain movements but do they carry over to the pitch. The Strength training is a vital part of a players training but only after they have the basics in place.
Time management – Integrated skills and physical work
With time always an issue coaches maximise training by addressing fundamental movement and injury prevention in warm ups and cool downs and mixing sport specific training with conditioning and strength training.
Nutrition and Fluids
This is a huge subject all on its own, with many views but simply a good balanced diets, meat, fish, a little dairy, vegetables and fruit before anything else. Eat local produce where possible. Unfortunately the growth of supermarkets has made this harder but solutions can be found.
Avoid ready-made meals, microwaving food, refined sugars and fizzy drinks. A bit of effort to cook fresh simple but tasty meals like Mum or Granny used to do, is a great step forward to fuelling our body for sport and improving our health.
Only use supplements once you have the basics in place, also note more is not better. Many players today overdo protein in pursuit of muscle and overload their body’s systems trying to metabolise it. In such case they may as well tip the expensive supplement straight down the toilet and avoid the middle-man.
The forgotten or ignored side of training and life! Stress can be in the form of everyday life and sports training. To reduce it will improve life and sport.
The eastern bloc countries used to plan a 50% : 50% training:recovery Ratio. The training is the stress and with correct recovery the body and its systems will adapt and improve.
Avoid using hard training as a stress relief to work as do are stressing yourself twice as much. Electro- magnetic fields are a real issue nowadays, computers, phones, wi-fi. Avoid TV and computers close to sleep time as they disrupt sleep quality. Use an alarm on your watch as opposed to a mobile phone, keep them out of the bedroom!
Some recovery examples are;
Sleep plenty of it! Warm ups and cool downs, cross training like swimming, walking in the country, woods and parks, stretching post exercise to relax muscles and reset their resting length. Alternatives mind body such as Yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi, Qi-Gong.
Hopefully this has provoked you to think a bit more about how you approach life and sport and I hope you take steps to make positive changes and ultimately enjoy both to the maximum.
Tim has over 20 years experience as a sport-specific fitness coach following a rugby career-ending neck injury at 24 years old. He's worked with both professional teams and their academies in football and rugby, and counts Wales football team and Scotland and England Under21 rugby teams as clients.
He's also worked with Premiership and Championship football clubs including West Bromwich Albion, Coventry City, Portsmouth, Stoke City plus Premiership Rugby Richmond and Northampton and in France CA Brive for 2 years. He spent his formative years learning his trade in the USA at Arizona State University as a volunteer coach working with the major US sports teams.
Tim now consults to Teams, Clubs, Schools and Individuals at both International and aspirational levels, in the following areas.
Sport Specific Performance Development.
Speed + Agility + Strength + Power training.
Integrated Sports Specific Training + functional prevention.
Long Term Athletic Development systems.
Workshops, training camps and Coach education.