Golden rules of fitness for professional athletes

Some pointers a professional sportsperson should know about the entire process of fitness and allied fields.

As a professional sportsperson, one needs to know exactly how the exercise programme works for his or her betterment and ability.   -  AFP

Complete medical check-up at the beginning of the season

One of the most powerful features of creating a programme for a professional athlete is to look at a full body medical check-up. All pertinent tests are done to eliminate medical issues that come up during a game or training. To be on the professional and safer side, this is of paramount importance.

Full musculoskeletal assessment along with functional movement system and posture assessment

Once the medical screening is done and all the reports are good, it is time to determine a complete physiological assessment. This will cover functional movement system screening, range of motion studies, posture analysis and star excursions tests, among others. Each sport requires distinctive techniques for the assessments.

Fitness testing according to the sport and skill

This is the benchmark for all sports that requires physical and psychological preparedness. The athlete needs to be in ship shape to hit individual targets or collective team targets in testing. This is done according to the sport and the specialised skills related to bringing out the best desired results. The tests need to be repeated according to demands and preferably under the same environmental, surface, time and weather conditions to get the relevant data.

Data collection

As technology has progressed to a remarkable level compared to the preceding generation, collating and using data for instant analysis, comparative evaluation or future reference is an excellent mechanism. Online data compilation is usable at any instant for further inference. More refined tools can predict performance depending on the data. This is an excellent mechanism for load management and predictability of injuries and performance.

Nutritional guidance and protocols

How you perform depends on what you ingest. This is one of the most important factors in peak performance and rejuvenation. An individualised regime is the blueprint, and collective team diet schedules are necessary.

The diet regime depends on the tour schedule, period, climatic conditions, ethnicity and geographic location, among other things. Medical tests can be used to determine hereditary conditions and design the diet appropriately.

Periodised schedule according to season, skill and sport

Most noteworthy for high performance, the schedule should be arranged into three series — macro, meso and micro cycles — and then subdivided into mini-cycles per week or day to get the best out of the competitor. Programme design, need analysis, programme variables, etc., also come into it. It should be a very technical and dynamic system to get the finest out of each professional.

Debriefing session on the findings of tests with athlete along with coach and support staff

Normally it’s left to the coach and support staff to decide schedules with players. But it would be prudent for the full team to work with professionals to figure out the current state of fitness, alternative prospects and target-oriented practice designs to get the best out of the player. It is very crucial in both team and individual sports to get the best out of the player by knowing him or her better.

Exercise protocols for prehab or rehab according to the physio

This is an essential part of the routine and injury-prevention mechanism.

Monitoring logs on a daily basis

Daily monitoring on various parameters on sleep, heart rate, intensity of training, niggles or rate of perceived exertion is important for holistic data collection and inference.

Wearable technology on the field

This trend started at least 10 years ago. Various data collection options are available online for muscle fatigue, seat ratio, heart rate, torque, force, speed or centre of gravity, among other things.

Retesting according to season, time and place

A very controversial part is retesting. It raises a question: If the load-monitoring and data-collection details can be used to calculate a player’s current fitness levels and performance, why is this pertinent. Here it’s the call of the individual and the team.

Progression is key

Progression and reaching targets are key to succeeding in any sport. Target-oriented programmes are important because of their periodisation, as discussed earlier.

Out-of-the-box thinking

Under the pretext of out-of-the-box thinking, a good deal of sportspersons fail miserably in execution and the continuum of the principles of training. Not go by the book in all aspects. Modification and programme manipulation are also key components for success.

One size does not fit all

As described earlier, individualised schedules according to sport, skills, duration, intensity, timetable and travel, among other factors, have to be taken into consideration in designing an athlete’s programme. Even in team games, the individuals are not the same and require different schedules to prevent injuries and for long-term success.

Mental preparation

There has to be a mind-and-body sync for peak performance. Mental imagery techniques, breathing patterns and trigger responses need to be considered. At the end of the day, it’s the mind that differentiates between a winner and a loser.

Dangerous trends

Copying someone else’s workout and under the pretext of thinking out of the box can have serious implications.

No question is trivial

Always ask why and how!

As a professional sportsperson, one needs to know exactly how the exercise programme works for his or her betterment and ability. The onus lies on the strength and conditioning coaches to explain and guide the professionals on the right path.