Fitnesswise: Making sense of ‘sixth’ sense

Developing a sixth sense helps athletes balance their training, performance and recovery in an effective manner.

Published : Nov 10, 2023 17:21 IST - 4 MINS READ

The ‘when’ is the key: An inability to balance training and recovery can have serious consequences.
The ‘when’ is the key: An inability to balance training and recovery can have serious consequences. | Photo Credit: AFP

The ‘when’ is the key: An inability to balance training and recovery can have serious consequences. | Photo Credit: AFP

“No matter how hard you train, somebody will train harder. No matter how hard you run, somebody will run harder. No matter how much you want it, somebody will want it more. I am somebody” — Steve Prefontaine.

The term ‘sixth sense’ seems like a paranormal experience, but in reality, it’s just common sense combined with an analytical mind which enables one to understand situations and act accordingly to get the desired results.

Sixth sense is pertinent for both athletes and coaches who come from varied backgrounds and have different career perspectives. While a few of them are training to reach success within their own domain, others are competing at the national level to prepare for a higher level of competition, like the Olympics.

All athletes face the same challenges while balancing hard training with the daily stress stemming from studies, parental/social pressure and expectations, and work/behavioural lifestyle dynamics.

READ | Fitnesswise: Adapting coaching for modern athletes

Some of the athletes, particularly those in peak shape, tend to know their own bodies very well. They understand when to take it easy and when it’s time to train hard.

However, this is not often the scenario. In order to maximise the training volumes and performance outcomes, there is a very narrow gap between maximised training and overtraining. Inability to balance training and recovery can have serious consequences.

In recent times, with the advent of technology along with varied measures and methods to control the balance of the athletes’ output data with crunched numbers for inferences, specific subjective feelings (Borg scale) or resting heart rate measurements just prior to training have provided valuable indicators of recovery and readiness status.

Instead of focusing solely on training or recovery monitoring, the analysis in sport provides us a concrete tool to observe how training and behavioural lifestyle factors are affecting athletes’ bodies as a whole. The objective data derived from 24/7 monitoring helps athletes interpret the reactions of their body and to better balance the overall training load and recovery.

There is an apt observation that athletes who are hardworking seldom get time to recover and the ability to relax during the course of the day. Keeping this in mind, short breaks and ‘relaxation slots’ in their daily or weekly routines ensure better recovery.

For strength and conditioning coaches, however, it is more essential to learn how to develop a kind of ‘sixth sense’ for the athletes. By ‘sixth sense’ I mean the ability for an athlete to interpret body feedback and to programme daily routines to support the training progress.

The ability to rest and recover is an art for any athlete. They need to know when to play hard, when to rest and when to recover harder. When their muscles are sore or when they are having disturbed sleep, it is still challenging for them to take some time off and get rest.

When they learn to listen to their bodies better with the help of objective measures, they will have much more self-confidence in making those important training decisions, which eventually lead to better performances. Being aware of the bio-rhythm is a catalyst for peak performance.

Taking cricket as an example, the professional players are mindful of when and where to take a necessary break to rejuvenate and excel in their performances. The major point is the avoidance of injuries, including repetitive ones.

ALSO READ | Training Transfer: Bridging the Gap for Athletes

There would always be a varied point of views and criticism when a player is rested or given a break. It’s a no-brainer from the professional angle to give players the best recovery protocols for their longevity in excellence.

At times players are forced to play due to pressure even though they are supposed to be rested on physical, psychological and social angle — this can be a myopic vision in excellence.

There is a thin line between will power and foolishness. Involvement of the players in making the decision regarding their rest and recovery from management to coaches is a concoction for long-term succes.

Helping players develop their sixth sense is the duty of the coach and the entire ecosystem if the system needs to thrive. The sixth sense should be your first sense.

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