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  BrianMac is a Level 4 Performance Coach and Coach Tutor/Assessor with British Athletics, the Uk's National Governing body for Track and Field Athletics. He has 40+ years experience as an endurance athlete and 25+ years experience as an athletics coach. click here to read more about BrianMac.   Sports Coach provides information on the many topics related to developing physical and mental condition to help fitness enthusiasts, athletes and coaches achieve their goals and to assist students studying sport related qualifications.

One of the misconceptions in the sports world is that a sports person gets in shape by just playing or taking part in his/her chosen sport. If a stationary level of performance, consistent ability in executing a few limited skills is your goal, then engaging only in your sport will keep you there. However, if you want the utmost efficiency, consistent improvement, and balanced abilities sportsmen and women must participate in year round conditioning programs. The bottom line in sports conditioning and fitness training is stress, not mental stress, but adaptive body stress. Sportsmen and women must put their bodies under a certain amount of stress (overload) to increase physical capabilities.
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Ideal Weight & BMI   Heart Rate Zones
A method of determining if you have an ideal body weight is to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI). To calculate your BMI divide your weight in kilograms by your height in metres squared (weight ÷ height²) The normal acceptable range of this measurement is 20.1 to 25.0 for men and 18.7 to 23.8 for women. A more accurate assessment of your ideal weight takes into account your body composition.   Heart rate training zones are calculated by taking into consideration your maximum heart rate (HRmax) and your resting heart rate (HRrest). The zones are: Energy Efficient or Recovery (60-70%), Aerobic (70-80%), Anaerobic (80-90%) and the Red Line (90-100%). Within each training zone, subtle physiological effects take place to enhance your fitness.
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VO2max   Maximum Heart Rate
Fitness can be measured by the volume of oxygen you can consume while exercising at your maximum capacity. Numerous studies show that you can increase your VO2 max by working out at an intensity that raises your heart rate to between 65 and 85% of its maximum for at least 20 minutes three to five times a week. A mean value of VO2 max for male athletes is about 3.5 litres/minute and for female athletes it is about 2.7 litres/minute.   Athletes who use a heart rate monitor as a training aid need to identify their actual maximum heart rate in order to determine their appropriate training zones. Maximum heart rate (HRmax) can be determined by undertaking a maximum heart rate stress test which although relatively short does require you to push your body and your heart to the very limit. It can also be predicted using a formula but the variation in actual HRmax will lie within a range of 20 beats/minute.
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Circuit Training
Circuit training is an excellent way to improve mobility, strength and stamina. The circuit training format utilizes a group of 6 to 10 strength exercises that are completed one exercise after another. Each exercise is performed for a specified number of repetitions or for a prescribed time before moving on to the next exercise. The exercises within each circuit are separated by brief, timed rest intervals, and each circuit is separated by a longer rest period.
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Energy Pathways
Energy production is both time and intensity related. Running at a very high intensity, as in sprinting, means that an athlete can operate effectively for only a very short period. Running at a low intensity, as in gentle jogging, means that an athlete can sustain activity for a long period. Training introduces another variable, and the sprinter who uses sound training principles is able to run at a high intensity for longer periods. Similarly, the endurance athlete who uses sound training methods can sustain higher intensities during a set period. There is a relationship between the exercise intensity and the energy source. So what are they?
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Warm Up & Cool Down   Plyometrics
There is no doubt that time spent on warming up and cooling down will improve an individual's level of performance and accelerate the recovery process needed before and after training or competition. Muscle stiffness is thought to be directly related to muscle injury and therefore the warm up should be aimed at reducing muscle stiffness. Dynamic stretches are more appropriate to the warm up as they help reduce muscle stiffness. Static stretching exercises do not reduce muscle stiffness. What are the other benefits?   Speed and strength are integral components of fitness found in varying degrees in virtually all athletic movements. Simply put the combination of speed and strength is power. Throughout this century and no doubt long before, jumping, bounding and hopping exercises have been used in various ways to enhance athletic performance. In recent years, this distinct method of training for power or explosiveness has been termed plyometrics. So what are some examples of plyometric exercises?
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Flexibility   Muscle Types
Flexibility, mobility and suppleness all mean the range of limb movement around joints. In any movement there are two groups of muscles at work - the agonistic muscles which cause the movement to take place and opposing the movement and determining the amount of flexibility are the antagonistic muscles. Flexibility plays an important part in the preparation of athletes by developing a range of movement to allow technical development and assisting in the prevention of injury.
The various techniques of stretching may be grouped as Static, Ballistic, Dynamic, Active, Passive, Isometric and Assisted.
  Muscle tissue has four main properties: Excitability (ability to respond to stimuli), Contractibility (ability to contract), Extensibility (ability to be stretched without tearing) and Elasticity (ability to return to its normal shape). Based on certain structural and functional characteristics, muscle tissue is classified into three types: cardiac, smooth and skeletal. Fascia is the soft tissue component of the connective tissue system. It interpenetrates and surrounds muscles, bones, organs, nerves, blood vessels and other structures. Fascia is an uninterrupted, three-dimensional web of tissue that extends from head to toe, from front to back, from interior to exterior
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Injury Prevention
The amount of training you carry out plays a key role in determining your real injury risk. Studies have shown that your best direct injury predictor may be the amount of training you completed last month. Fatigued muscles do a poor job of protecting their associated connective tissues, increasing the risk of damage to bone, cartilage, tendons and ligaments.
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Sports Psychology
The increased stress of competitions can cause athletes to react both physically and mentally in a manner that can negatively affect their performance abilities. They may become tense, their heart rates race, they break into a cold sweat, they worry about the outcome of the competition, they find it hard to concentrate on the task in hand. This has led coaches & athletes to take an increasing interest in the field of sport psychology and in particular in the area of competitive anxiety. That interest has focused on techniques that athletes can use in the competitive situation to maintain control and optimise their performance. So what are these techniques?
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Speed Training   Proteins
Speed is the quickness of movement of a limb, whether this is the legs of a runner or the arm of the shot putter. Speed is an integral part of every sport and can be expressed as any one of, or combination of, the following: maximum speed, elastic strength (power) and speed endurance. The two factors that effect speed are stride length and strike rate. Speed endurance is used to develop the co-ordination of muscle contraction. Repetition methods are used with a high number of sets, low number of repetitions per set and intensity greater than 85% with distances covered from 60% to 120% of racing distance.   During the process of digestion, the proteins in our food are broken down into their constituent amino acids that are transported to the liver where they are then synthesized into proteins or stored as fat or glycogen for energy. Research to find other sources of protein for people who could not obtain them via their diet identified whey protein, a by-product of cheese making. This was a major breakthrough for sports people as during and immediately after exercise protein breakdown increases, protein manufacture slows down and protein is required to repair damaged muscles.
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Endurance Training   Running Economy
The types of endurance are aerobic endurance, anaerobic endurance, speed endurance and strength endurance. A sound basis of aerobic endurance is fundamental for all events. During anaerobic work, involving maximum effort, the body is working so hard that the demands for oxygen and fuel exceed the rate of supply and the muscles have to rely on the stored reserves of fuel. The muscles, being starved of oxygen, take the body into a state known as oxygen debt. What are the other forms of endurance?   In many sports speed is an important attribute and ways to improve speed are constantly sought after. To improve speed you need to increase stride length and/or strike rate. Many athletes and coaches initially concentrate on improving stride length only to find that both strike rate and speed decrease. It is more effective to work on strike rate because this increases the power in the leg muscles which in turn increase stride length. Does breathing have an impact on running economy?
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Improve your Game

Lisa Brown