Entries by Craig Pickering

Sports Science Monthly – August 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. In the August edition we start off looking at some lessons we can learn from a recent editorial giving an elite athlete’s perspective on training and load management. We also look at the modern consensus on hamstring injury risk, coaching resilience, how the athlete biological passport has impacted performance, team comedians, and more.

The effects of lockdown on performance

As we’re all aware, the majority of the world is currently in a somewhat unprecedented state of lockdown. In some countries, this lockdown is beginning to ease, whilst in others—as I write this, particularly the US—the rates of infection are growing, suggesting that lockdown periods may continue in the future. As lockdown restrictions start to ease further, we will likely see an increase in localized lockdowns, in which smaller, local areas are subjected to increased restrictions due to local outbreak clusters as was recently announced for Melbourne.

Sports Science Monthly – July 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. In the July edition we start off by taking a look at some lessons coaches can learn from medicine in dealing with COVID-19. In addition, we break down the latest research on hamstring strength asymmetry, resilience, willpower, nitrate supplementation and more.

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.

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.

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.

Sports Science Monthly – June 2020

Every month we take a deep dive into the latest research in sports science. In the June edition we take a deep dive into several articles on building mental toughness and resilience in training. Mental toughness is a term that is thrown around a lot, but without many coaches knowing exactly what it is or how to train it. We then look at the importance of individualized recovery, and how coaches commonly monitor athletes.

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.

Optimal energy intake for performance health

As the performance health series continues, let’s stop to catch our breath, and briefly review where we’ve gotten to. So far, we’ve seen that the risk of injury and illness is complex and multifactorial, with a number of different models helping us to better understand how we might get injured. We’ve discussed the influence of “load”, a broad term which can include physiological, psychological, and lifestyle-related factors. We looked closely at illness and immune function and how psychological and lifestyle-related factors such as poor sleep and anxiety can increase the risk of both illness and injury. Similarly, inadequate nutrition, especially inadequate energy intake, is also a significant risk factor. This article will continue with this last point and take a deeper look at nutrition and energy intake.

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.