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June 2020 in review: performance health

Elite sport exists on a knife-edge. Push too little and you won’t get better. Push too hard and you’ll get injured. Athletes are searching for that sweet spot of performance health where they can stay healthy and increase performance. Just like performance itself, performance health is multi-faceted. Craig Pickering put together a 9-part series in June diving into detail on different aspects like load, injury, nutrition, psychosocial factors and more.

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Putting performance health into perspective

At the start of this article series, I wrote that my athletics career was a series of moderate successes punctuated by significant injuries, and that, over time, my performance became increasingly hampered by the long term effects of these injuries. As someone who has lived through the frustration of this process—and indeed, was forced to retire from professional sport because of it—I want to be able to help others avoid what afflicted me. Read more

The importance of coach health and wellbeing

So far we’ve looked at athletes as the cornerstone of performance optimization, and perhaps rightly so; after all, it is the athlete who has to perform on competition day. However, an important component of getting an athlete to the point at which they are able to perform at their best is the coach.
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Optimizing athlete recovery and sleep

When it comes to training, competing, and life all exert a significant amount of load on the athlete, through a variety of different mediums, including the physiological and psychological. In this article of the performance health series, I’ll explore what we can do to support our recovery from load. Read more

Psychosocial factors impacting performance health

Whilst we may have previously considered the brain and body and separate entities, it is no longer viable to do so; the research is now clear that the brain plays an important role in moderating risk factors associated with injury and illness, and, from a performance standpoint, it is often psychological factors that most differentiate the performance of elite athletes on competition day. Read more

Improving athlete immune function and support

I generally consider myself to be pretty hardy and robust, rarely suffering from illness. However, when I was selected to compete at the 2007 World Championships, I came down with a really bad cold in the pre-competition holding camp, which affected my training for about a week. In 2009, the week of the European Indoor Championships, I again had a terrible cold. In 2005 and 2011, I also was hit with really bad colds in the days before running my seasons best times. Maybe I just remember those colds because they’re linked to an important event I was taking part in, but an increasing body of research shows I was not alone and that athletes become increasingly susceptible to illnesses in the run up to major competitions.

» Learn more: This article is part 4 in Craig Pickering’s Performance Health Series. Part 1 discussed the concept of performance health, part 2 reviewed leading injury models, and part 3 explains load and load measurement. Read more

The case for performance health

More and more research shows that an athlete’s availability to train and compete is a leading factor in elite performance. In looking back at my own career, this was certainly the case. Throughout the month I will be presenting a 9-part series on performance health. In other words, what factors can increase an athlete’s availability to do what is needed for performance. Read more