Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 7 – Cool Off

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 cooling off during training and games in the heat.  In general, playing soccer in temperatures above 25 degrees Celsius can cause heat illnesses (ranging from mild discomfort and dehydration, to more serious problems like heat exhaustion and heat stroke) in players.  The higher the temperature, the more likely it is for heat illnesses to occur.  In most instances, if players are well hydrated, they can avoid any serious health consequences during training sessions, because the training time and frequency of water breaks can be closely controlled by the coaching staff.  During games, however, players may participate for 45-50 minutes without a significant rest period, so the risks of heat illness are much higher during games played in the heat.

Cooling players off at half time (to reduce core body temperature and prevent heat illness) is a critical component for recovery and optimal performance during games in the heat.  One simple strategy I like to use is to have a cooler of ice cubes handy just before the half time break.  When players are walking off the field, hand them 2 ice cubes – one for each hand.  Other than the head, the hands have the body’s largest number of temperature receptors (parts of the skin and circulatory system that are most sensitive to heat and cold).  Holding ice cubes in the hands for just a few minutes can significantly reduce the body’s core temperature.  The slow melting of the ice also helps to calm players down as they sit and rest during the half time break.  I have found that most players actually prefer having ice in their hands, rather than the more conventional method of having ice on their head or neck, as ice in the hands is much less intrusive and can be more comfortable.  By the end of the half time break, the ice should be completely melted, and players should be ready to start their re-warm-up before the second half.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this.  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 6 – Check Body Weight

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 hydration.  Many different resources exist to help athletes determine how much fluid and electrolytes they should be consuming during training and competition, however, the exact quantities needed to adequately replenish lost water and electrolytes can vary greatly from individual to individual.  One technique I have used to measure players’ hydration (or lack thereof) which is simple, easy to administer and allows for individualization, is to check body weight before and after training and games.  Studies have shown that players who lose greater than or equal to 1% of their body weight are considered “dehydrated”.  After checking players’ body weight, steps can be taken to ensure that weight lost in future training sessions/games is less than the 1% cut-off.  Below is a simple summary of how to manage body weight changes:

  • Start by examining 1-2 weeks of data, which should include training and games
  • If average body weight lost was more than 1%, start measuring the amount of water, and sodium, consumed, and add 250mL more water + 200mg more sodium (adding sodium can be done by adding salt to water or sports drinks)
  • If the addition of 250mL more water, and 200mg more sodium, keeps weight loss to under 1%, then stay with that amount for all future training sessions/games
  • If not, add another 250mL of water and 200mg of sodium, and try again until you have found the right amount

This simple strategy of measuring body weight pre- and post-training and games, combined with adjusting water and sodium intake for each individual player, has worked well for me in several different environments throughout my career.  I am sure it will be just as helpful for any other coach or fitness coach who is interested in keeping their players hydrated.

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

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 5 – Perceived Recovery

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 once again about recovery.  As I mentioned in previous editions of this blog, recovery during the university season in general, and during pre-season in particular, is crucial to the success of any team.  A few days ago I discussed the use of the Total Quality Recovery (TQR-A) “Actual” scale, which requires players to keep track of the recovery activities they perform and calculate a score out of 20 each day.  Today I will briefly discuss the second piece of the TQR process – the TQR-P (Total Quality Recovery “Perceived” scale). 

The TQR-P requires players to answer the question “How are You Feeling Today?”, based on a 6-20 scale (6 being “very poor recovery” and 20 being “Excellent recovery”).  Typically, this score is taken first thing in the morning, or at the earliest time of day that coaches see their players.  Knowing the answer to this recovery question is especially useful when the number is compared to the TQR-A score from the day before. If players’ perceived recovery is good, then they must be doing a good job with their recovery activities, however,  if perceived recovery is poor (and/or if the number decreases over the course of the season) then looking at the TQR-A can give insight as to how/why the problem happened, and what can be done to fix it. 

Keeping track of players’ recovery status is extremely important for coaches and fitness coaches, because inadequate recovery can lead to overtraining, injuries, and overall decreased performance.  I have had a slot of success using the TQR-A and TQR-P with players at various levels (including the Canadian National Women’s U17 team, and the Toronto FC Academy teams), and they have also been an integral part of my work with UOIT.

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

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 4 – Starburst

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 sugar.  Yes, the same sugar that your parents, your dentist, and probably everyone else in your life is always telling you that you eat too much of.  Unless, that is, you are a soccer player who works with me!  In that case, there are specific times when it is actually a good thing to consume foods that are high in sugar.  The sport of soccer at the university varsity level is played at a relatively high intensity.  Most studies conducted on female soccer have shown that players’ average heart rates during games will range from 155 to 180 beats per minute (BPM).  At this intensity, the body’s only source of energy is stored carbohydrates, termed “muscle glycogen.”  Over the course of a match, glycogen stored in the muscles gets depleted, and eventually the glycogen stores may become completely exhausted, at which point an athlete will no longer be able to produce the energy needed for muscular work.   

In order to stave off this depletion of muscle glycogen, athletes should consume foods or drinks that are high in sugar during match play.  Because muscle glycogen is broken down into glucose (sugar) to provide the body with energy, ingestion of sugar during exercise can replenish some of the stored glycogen that is lost over the course of a match.  Candy, because it is high in sugar (and specifically, high in the type of sugar –  glucose – which is most rapidly absorbed into the blood) is the most effective type of food to consume to replenish muscle glycogen.  Half time of a match is the perfect time to have players eat some candy and start recovering their energy stores.  The fact that candy also tastes great is just a bonus!  With the teams I work with (including UOIT), I prefer to use Starburst, which come in a variety of flavors and in individually wrapped servings that are easy to distribute.  Each player will chew on 1 or 2 candies over the course of the 15-minute half time break, while they are cooling off and listening to the Head Coach’s team talk. 

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

 

   

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 3 – Total Quality Recovery “Actual” Scale

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 all about recovery.  In the university season, getting players to perform optimally is often a matter of keeping them healthy and on the field.  Recovery and regeneration (which encompasses a wide range of activities, from nutrition/hydration, sleep, and active recovery such as stretching, foam rolling, and ice baths) is a vital component of our athletes’ physical performance.  Without adequate recovery, players can loose strength, speed, power, and endurance, and will also be much more susceptible to injury. 

In most of the higher level environments I have worked, including the university level, one of the greatest challenges has always been trying to get players to do the things they need to do and hold them accountable for their recovery.  One unique strategy that was introduced to me by my friend and the current fitness coach of Montreal Impact in MLS, Paolo Pacione, has been to give players a Total Quality Recovery “Actual” (TQR-A) Scale.  The TQR-A was created by sports physicians and fitness coaches from the Stockholm, Sweden, and comprises a 1-page score sheet, with points awarded to athletes for all of the different recovery activities they are expected to do each day.  Athletes earn points for such activities as:

  • 3 full meals per day
  • urine color clear
  • 30 minutes of feet elevated in 1 day
  • 30 minute nap in 1 day

(Just to name a few).  The total score out of 20 is reported.  Athletes working with a Fitness Coach can examine their daily/weekly scores, and try to determine where they can look to make improvements.  An additional benefit of using the TQR-A is that it gets athletes to constantly think about their recovery, and what they can do to make it better.  Using the TQR-A has been very helpful to me in my career thus far, and I believe it is an excellent tool for fitness coaches working with athletes in a high performance environment.

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

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 2 – Ice Baths

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 has to do with a popular (or, depending on who you ask, unpopular) method of recovery and regeneration, ice baths.  The basic premise of ice baths is simple: ice decreases inflammation and the painful bi-products of intense exercise, and the best way to decrease total body inflammation is to submerge the entire body – or at least the entire body from the waist down – in ice cold water.  While the ice is cold and a bit unpleasant at first, ice baths are probably the most effective way to reduce inflammation and muscle soreness in athletes.  The scientific term for ice baths is ‘cryotherapy’.  There have been numerous studies, including some recent one done on female soccer players, that have reported significant increases in muscle strength and power when using cryotherapy following training, as opposed to just resting.  During pre-season, when training load (volume, and intensity) are very high, ice baths can be a life saver (and leg saver)! 

Follow this simple ice bath protocol to help recover better:

  • Buy 2-3 bags of ice from a gas station
  • fill a bathtub with cold water, then put the ice in the water
  • use a thermometer to measure the water temperature; if it’s between 8-12 degrees Celsius, hop in!
  • lay in the water so that only the head and shoulders are above water, and keep the legs stretched out and relaxed
  • stay in this position for a minimum of 5, and maximum of 10 minutes

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

 

Science

UOIT Ridgeback’s Women’s Soccer Fitness Coach Tip of the Day – Day 1 – Get Some Rest!

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 has to do with sleep.  Pre-season (which starts for us tomorrow) means a significant increase in the energy expenditure of university players who are finishing with their summer soccer seasons.  Training camps like ours typically last for 2-3 weeks, and involve 2 training sessions per day, 2-3 games per week, plus classroom sessions, fitness sessions, recovery sessions, and of course the daily life stressors of going back to school!  For Varsity soccer players, all of these factors serve to highlight the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

Several studies done on soccer players, as well as athletes from other sports, have indicated that athletes who do not get at least 7 hours of sleep per day can experience a range of physical and physiological problems, including increased resting heart rate, loss of appetite, decreased muscle strength and power, decreased time to exhaustion on endurance tests (lower aerobic performance), and increased recovery time for muscle soreness and injuries.  Even athletes who have been shown to have “perceived tiredness” – that is – they think they are not getting enough sleep and/or report feeling “tired” – can experience some of these negative consequences.  The end result of a lack of sleep in simple terms is simple: decreased performance and high chance of injury.

The solution to these problems for university athletes beginning pre-season is two-fold:

  1. Make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and make sure those hours occur between 10pm and 8am.
  2. Make time to take a nap (30-60 minutes maximum) in the middle of the day (preferably between the two daily training sessions). 

I will be sharing these recommendations with our players starting tomorrow.  Other university coaches and fitness coaches should do the same! 

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