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UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 14 – Hip Mobility

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about hip mobility.  The hip joint is one of the most often injured areas of the body in many sports including soccer, however, the hip is especially susceptible to injury in soccer because of the repetitive kicking (and plating) movements involved in the sport.  Mobility of the hip, which involves flexibility and strength throughout its range of motion, is a key contributor to prevention of several hip injuries, including:

  • hip flexor strains
  • groin strains
  • glute strains
  • IT band syndrome
  • stretching/tearing of the labrum

In general, hip mobility exercises should involve a dynamic stretch of the main hip muscles (psoas, adductors, abductors, glutes and hamstrings) in combination with loading of the muscles.  Hip mobility exercises should be done following a warm-up, to ensure that maximum range of motion and loading can take place.  Below is a video of a simple hip mobility exercise that I like to use with the players I work with.  It takes only a few minutes, and is very effective as a means of preventing hip injuries in soccer.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started. 

 

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Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 13 – Morning Heart Rate

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about overtraining.  Because the university soccer season is so short, there are often weeks which include 2-3 games, and training sessions on almost every day in between.  Compounding the problem for student-athletes is the fact that they typically have 20-30 hours per week of classes to attend, plus homework, and maybe even a part time job.  All of these factors, which can contribute to a lack of adequate recovery, combine to make university players more susceptible to overtraining syndrome.  Overtraining syndrome is defined by Wikipedia as “an imbalance in a simple equation: Training = Workout + Recovery.” The full spectrum of overtraining can result in hormonal, nutritional, mental/emotional, muscular, neurological and other imbalances in the body.

Among the many symptoms of overtraining syndrome is a high morning heart rate.  Studies done on athletes in a variety of sports settings have shown that morning heart rates exceeding 60 beats per minute (BPM) are generally associated with the beginning stages of overtraining syndrome. Recognizing this symptom of overtraining early allows for some changes to be made (including less training load, more sleep, better diet, etc.) to help stop the problem before it becomes more serious.  University soccer players can easily check and monitor their morning heart rate, by following these easy steps:

  • keep a pen, paper, and a stopwatch handy at a night table beside bed
  • immediately after waking up, sit up in bed, with feet on the floor
  • using the index and middle fingers, touch the middle of the throat, then move the fingers 2 inches to the right
  • press gently on this area of the neck until a pulse is felt
  • using the stopwatch to keep time, count the number of heart beats felt in 10 seconds
  • multiply this number by 10, and record the morning heart rate on the paper in beats per minute (BPM)

Having athletes record their morning heart rate is a simple and easy to use technique to help detect overtraining syndrome early in pre-season.  It will keep athletes mindful of their rest and recovery, and of course will allow for specific interventions if needed.  I have used this technique with the athletes I have worked with in several different training environments, and I recommend other coaches and fitness coaches to do the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 12 – Yo-Yo Test

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about fitness testing.  Many fitness coaches, regardless of the level they work at, are pressed for time.  Coaches typically want to use as much of their team’s training time as possible on technical and tactical training, so finding even 1 full day to devote completely to fitness testing can sometimes be challenging.  The type of test that is required in high performance environments is one that can accurately assess players’ physical ability in the least amount of time possible.  In sports science, a fitness assessment should always meet the following criteria:

  • It must be valid (it must actually measure what it is said to measure)
  • It must be reliable (it must only use equipment/tools that are reliable and will work consistently)
  • It must be repeatable (the administration of the test should be consistent from one tester to the next)

Considering all of these criteria, the one test that all fitness coaches should use for soccer is the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test.  Originally developed by researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, this test comprises a 2 x 20 metre shuttle run, done at progressively increasing speeds, with a 10-second break between each shuttle (the 10-second break is constant and does not change throughout the test).  Players must perform the shuttle runs in time with audio beep signals, and they are given 1 warning if they do not run across the 20 metre line in time with the beep (the 2nd time this occurs, the test is over).  A score (stage reached), as well as the total distance covered in the test, is recorded by the testers.  There are 2 different Levels (Level 1, and Level 2) of the Yo-Yo Intermittent Recovery Test (Level 1 starts at a lower speed, and is thus used for females, and males under the age of 15). 

A number of research studies over the past 10 years have been done on the Yo-Yo tests, and they have stood up as being valid, reliable, and repeatable.  Most importantly for soccer fitness coaches, the Yo-Yo tests have been shown to be the best predictors of the total amount of high intensity running a player can do in a game.  Simply put, a player who covers more distance in the Yo-Yo test has the capacity to cover more distance at high intensity (typically defined as running speeds of 23km/hour or greater in females, and 28km/hour or higher in males) in a game.  The tests are also very sensitive to training, so that if a player trains properly, they should see improvements in their Yo-Yo test score.  Finally, the Yo-Yo tests are also the most convenient choice, because an entire team can be tested at the same time, on the pitch, and even the fittest players will not last more than 15-20 minutes during either of the tests. 

I have used the Yo-Yo tests with all the athletes I have worked with over the past 8 years, including club, college/university, Provincial/National teams, and professional academies and first teams, both here in Canada and abroad.  They have been an invaluable tool for me to assess players’ fitness; to establish standards and norms; to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of training programs; and to provide quick and useful information to the coaches I have worked with. 

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started. 

Fitness, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 11 – Post-Game Fitness

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about maintenance of aerobic fitness.  Over the course of any soccer season, including at the university level, there will be a certain number of players who do not play regularly, or who play less than a full 90-minute game once or twice per week. These players, over time, will lose their aerobic endurance, and fall behind the players in the team who are playing full 90-minute games 1-2 times per week.  Many higher level teams, especially at the professional level, will solve this problem by having a ‘reserve team’, that plays reserve matches on the day of, or the day following, the first team games.  This solution, however, is not very practical for university teams, as it would be difficult to impossible to find opponents on a regular basis.

It has been my experience that the easiest and most efficient way to ensure that players outside the starting-11 maintain their aerobic fitness is to schedule specific workouts on the field, immediately after a game has finished.  Because time is usually a factor, these workouts need to provide a high stimulus to the aerobic system, but they also require a relatively low volume (10-20 minutes in total).  Below is an example of a post-game fitness routine I have used successfully in the past:

  • Set up a training area behind the goal
  • Place 1 line of cones 15 metres from the goal line; 1 line of cones 30 metres from the goal line; and 1 line of cones 45 metres from the goal line
  • Players line up on the goal line, and perform the following run, for 2 sets of 5 repetitions, with a work-to-rest ratio of 1:1 (the rest period is equal to the time taken to complete the first set of 5 repetitions)
    • Run at 90% intensity to the 1st line
    • Run at 50% intensity back to the start line
    • Run at 70% intensity to the  2nd line
    • Run at 50% intensity back to the start line
    • Run at 60% intensity to the 3rd line
    • Run at 50% intensity back to the start line

The above workout takes only 10 minutes (so it is short enough to be done after a game), and it also presents enough of a stimulus to the aerobic system to allow players to maintain their aerobic fitness.  I have used and will continue to use workouts like this post-game with my players.  Other coaches and fitness coaches should try to do the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 10 – Anti-Oxidants

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about how consumption of fruits and vegetables can help performance.  Pre-season in university soccer comprises 2-3 weeks of 2 training sessions per day, interspersed with 2-3 games per week, plus weight training sessions, interval running, recovery, yoga, and several other forms of exercise.  Then the season starts, and the next 2 1/2 months will consist of 4-6 training sessions and 2 hard games per week.  All of this soccer and exercise can place a huge physiological stress on the body.  Among the stressors that affect elite level athletes is oxidative stress on the cells of the body, which comes about as a result of oxygen interacting with muscle, tendon/ligament, and bone cells during exercise.  A symptom of oxidation – damaged muscle cells – are called “free radicals” (the word “free” is used because, through oxidation, the cells loose an important molecule, and as a result they will actively try to bind with and damage other “healthy” cells in the body).  Free radicals can lead to short term health problems in athletes, such as over-training syndrome and injury, as well as more serious long term diseases like cancer and diabetes. 

Thankfully, there is a simple and efficient way for soccer players to deal with the production of free radicals due to oxidative stress: eat more fruits and vegetables.  Fruits and vegetables contain vitamins and minerals, including compounds called anti-oxidants.  Anti-oxidants work in the body by either stopping the damage done to cells from free radicals, or preventing the process in the first place.  There are several different types of anti-oxidants, and by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables each day, soccer players can ensure that they consume enough of them to deal with the oxidative stress of playing the sport.  In general, I recommend that soccer players eat 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day.  Among the best choices are:

  • citrus fruits (containing vitamin C)
  • carrots (containing vitamin A and beta-carotene)
  • spinach/broccoli (containing B vitamins and vitamin E)

Eating a variety of different fruits and vegetables each day will help all high level soccer players perform at their optimum level.  I always do everything I can to encourage the players I work with the meet the 10 servings per day standard.  Other coaches and fitness coaches would be wise to do the same.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 9 – Protein

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about protein.  Considered the “building block” of muscle, protein is made up of smaller compounds called amino acids, which enter the blood stream through the diet, and help the body repair and grow muscle tissue.  There are 9 “essential” amino acids, which the body cannot synthesize, and thus must be provided through diet.  Animal protein, such as chicken, beef, pork, and also fish and eggs, contain all 9 essential amino acids and are thus the most efficient sources of protein.  Other plant based foods, such as nuts and seeds, beans, tofu, and certain vegetables, as well as dairy foods like milk and cheese, contain some but not all of the 9 essential amino acids.  These types of food can be eaten in combination (for example, nuts and cheese) to get all of the amino acids the body needs.

In elite level soccer, muscle damage caused by the repetitive load of training and games can accumulate fairly rapidly.  Soccer players must consume a daily amount of protein that will allow them to repair this muscle damage, as well as to help their muscles grow bigger and stronger to be able to withstand the future training/game loads.  In general, soccer players should aim to consume 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day.  For example, a female soccer player who weighs 65 kilograms, should consume 130 grams of protein per day.

In a typical 3 meal per day diet, this amount of required protein can be consumed as follows:

  • Breakfast: 2 eggs (26g protein); glass of milk (5g protein); toast with peanut butter (15g of protein)
  • Total Breakfast protein: 46g
  • Lunch: turkey sandwich with cheese (30g protein); chicken salad with nuts and beans (30g protein)
  • Total Lunch protein: 60g
  • Dinner: steak (25g protein); cup of yogurt (10g protein)
  • Total Dinner protein: 35g
  • Total daily protein intake = 46 + 60 + 35 = 141g   

Any soccer player aspiring to play university, professional, or national team level soccer should look to follow these guidelines to make sure they are getting the adequate amount of daily protein.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.

Nutrition, Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 8 – Carbohydrates

The Canadian University Soccer season is here, and this year marks my 3rd season as Assistant Coach and Fitness Coach with the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks Women’s Varsity Soccer Team.  This season, I will be blogging every day with a ‘Tip of the Day’ – a small piece of information about the testing, training, monitoring, or performance analysis I am doing with the team.

Today’s Tip of the Day is about carbohydrate consumption.  In elite level soccer, players’ average heart rates during intense training sessions and almost all games will typically be between 160 and 180 beats per minute (BPM).  At this intensity, the only nutrient the body can oxidize to produce fuel is muscle and/or liver glycogen, its stored form of carbohydrate (fat cannot be used as an energy source for higher intensity activities such as soccer).  Complex carbohydrates (starches) are the most efficient type of carbohydrate to be used as energy, because they last much longer in the body than simple carbohydrates (sugars).  Thus complex carbohydrates must be a staple of the diet of all high level soccer players.

While a steady intake of complex carbohydrates throughout the day is most ideal (1g of carbohydrate per kilogram of the athlete’s body weight per hour is a commonly recommended dose), in general, elite level soccer players should aim to consume 10-12 servings of complex carbohydrates per day.  When carbohydrate intake is broken down into meals, this number equates to 3-4 servings per meal.  A serving size is roughly equal to 1/4 of a regular sized bowl or dinner plate.  As an example, here is what the carbohydrate consumption in a day with three meals would look like:

  • Breakfast: 2 pieces of toast, 1 bowl of cereal (3 servings in total)
  • Lunch: large bowl of pasta (4 servings in total)
  • Dinner: large dish of rice, potatoes (5 servings in total)
  • Total number of servings: 12

Soccer players who consume 10-12 servings of complex carbohydrates per day can rest assured that they have provided their bodies with enough fuel to last for the entire duration of the day’s (and the next day’s) activities.  Any player aspiring to get to the university level or beyond should make sure they are prepared by fueling their body with the right amount of carbohydrates each day.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  Drop me a line here to get the conversation started.