Training for Longevity
Michael Black explains how sports science has revolutionised the way athletes train, giving athletes the platform to enjoy much longer careers at the highest level.
The origins of analysing performance can be traced back as far as the ancient Olympic Games in Greece, although it was not until the 20th century that the practice indeed took off.
The former Soviet Union began to use sports science extensively during the 1950s, sparking other countries to follow suit quickly.
Things have moved on rapidly since then, with sports science techniques now commonplace across the world. Read on as we look at how science has changed the way athletes train.
Science helps Giggs join an exclusive group
Former Manchester United and Wales star Ryan Giggs utilised many facets of sports science to enjoy a hugely successful career in top-class football.
Giggs was the fourth outfield player to play in the Premier League at the age of 40, joining Teddy Sheringham, Kevin Phillips, and Gordon Strachan in an exclusive group of veterans.
He played over 1,000 games during his career, winning 34 trophies including 13 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and two Champions Leagues. In the process he mastered multiple soccer positions, starting wide and ending his career playing in central midfield.
Giggs famously added yoga into his training regime after research showed that it could have a significant impact on an athlete’s ability to maintain fitness levels.
He also fully embraced the advice of famed sleep coach, Nick Littlehales, introducing new resting techniques into his daily life that significantly improved his recovery from physical activity.
Adding those two elements to his regular training routine undoubtedly helped Giggs stay at the top level for over 20 years.
Cryotherapy contributed to Ronaldo’s longevity
As he closes in on his 35th birthday, Juventus and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo is showing no signs of slowing down.
The five-time Ballon D’or winner remains at the peak of his powers, with sports science playing its part to keep him at the top of his profession.
Ronaldo sticks to a rigid fitness regime, working out five days a week for up to four hours per session to maintain his tremendous physique.
He has also implemented stringent warm-up techniques which have their roots in sports science, helping him to perform at his best repeatedly.
Ronaldo has also embraced cryotherapy, famously installing a chamber in his house to speed up his recovery times.
The science behind cryotherapy has been proven to help athletes recover from their exertions, as highlighted by the Super League’s Wigan Warriors back in 2014.
Top trio leading a revolution in tennis
In addition to football and rugby league, there are plenty of other sports using science to extend the career expectancy of their top stars.
Tennis is a superb example of this, with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, and Novak Djokovic continuing to dominate the sport despite each being past the age of 30.
The trio has used many elements of sports science to keep themselves at the top of the rankings, setting an example that many younger players are likely to follow in the future.
Djokovic’s transformation during his career is perhaps the most noteworthy, with the Serbian now physically unrecognisable from the player who used to be criticised for being fragile.
The 32-year-old has added nutritional supplements into his daily intake, while a gluten-free diet has also had a significant impact.
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About the Author
Michael Black is a freelance journalist.