Train­ing Ed­u­ca­tion

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - NEWS -

Sci­ence and Triathlon Con­fer­ence

For the first time since it be­gan in 2011, the In­ter­na­tional Triathlon Union’s Sci­ence and Triathlon Con­fer­ence was held out­side of Europe, mov­ing to Ed­mon­ton for its North Amer­i­can de­but. That wasn’t the only big dif­fer­ence for this con­fer­ence – this year’s ver­sion fo­cussed much more on the “sci­ence” than pre­vi­ous edi­tions, which some had felt had be­come more of a coaches fo­rum than a chance to delve into the lat­est sci­en­tific re­search in sport.

That very much fit into ITU pres­i­dent Marisol Casado’s vision when she put to­gether the first con­fer­ence in her home coun­try of Spain in 2011.

“Sci­ence is so im­por­tant in triathlon, an ex­tra sec­ond in tran­si­tion could make or break an elite race, but it also has a larger role to play for all triath­letes as I be­lieve us­ing sci­en­tific prin­ci­ples is the best way to the sport safe for ev­ery­one: ju­niors, age-groupers and para­triath­letes,” she said at the time. “Over­all, triathlon is a dy­namic sport, al­ways mov­ing and chang­ing, and once you con­sider the three legs, there are still un­der­ly­ing de­ci­sions to make about bikes, wet­suits, pac­ing, tran­si­tions and more. I be­lieve it’s the na­ture of the sport that opens it up to dif­fer­ent and spe­cial re­search, and sci­en­tific applications. So, I hope this con­fer­ence is just the start of fu­ture col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween triathlon and sci­ence, as it be­comes a place for re­searchers work­ing on triathlon to be rec­og­nized for their con­tri­bu­tions and where new ideas can be dis­cussed.”

She got her wish in Ed­mon­ton. While some of the world’s premier coaches were on hand – Inaki Are­nal, the high level per­for­mance team man­ager of the Span­ish Triathlon Fed­er­a­tion and Bri­tish triathlon coach Mal­colm Brown (who coaches the Brown­lee broth­ers among many other top U.K. triath­letes) – the pro­gram in­cluded pre­sen­ta­tions from some of the world’s most renowned sports sci­en­tists. We pro­file Dr. Stephen Che­ung (p.58), who of­fered a re­view of the lat­est sci­en­tific re­search around heat ac­clima­ti­za­tion, an area al­most ev­ery triath­lete strug­gles with at some point.

The con­fer­ence kicked off with an en­light­en­ing talk by sci­ence jour­nal­ist Alex Hutchin­son, who set things up with an en­light­en­ing look at the hype and re­al­ity of sports sci­ence, set­ting the tone for two days of in­for­ma­tion dis­sem­i­na­tion.

One of the most pop­u­lar pre­sen­ta­tions was by Ross Tucker, the chief sci­en­tist for World Rugby, who flew in from South Africa to present his thoughts on tal­ent iden­ti­fi­ca­tion and devel­op­ment. His riv­et­ing talk em­pha­sized that try­ing to iden­tify po­ten­tial elite ath­letes too early typ­i­cally doesn’t work.

“Early spe­cial­iza­tion suc­cess is not the norm,” Tucker says, cit­ing ex­am­ples of 11- and 13-year-old rugby tour­na­ments that were hor­ri­ble pre­dic­tors of even­tual suc­cess as al­most none of the early de­vel­op­ers con­tin­ued on to elite ca­reers. It’s not just tal­ent or the train­ing a young ath­lete does that might help them de­velop to elite lev­els, it’s a com­pli­cated in­ter­play of the two, Tucker says.

Time and again the sci­en­tists on hand seemed to be par­lay­ing a clear mes­sage: some­times the sim­plest and com­mon sense meth­ods make the big­gest dif­fer­ence. Carl Fos­ter from the Univer­sity of Wis­con­sin-la Crosse, who has worked with the U.S.’S na­tional speed skat­ing squad for years, was able to cite his re­search that sim­ply mon­i­tor­ing per­ceived ex­er­tion can serve as a great way to mon­i­tor train­ing stress. Both Are­nal and Brown of­fered con­crete ex­am­ples of their work with nu­mer­ous Olympic and world cham­pi­ons on just how sim­ple a suc­cess­ful train­ing pro­gram can and should be – pa­tience and con­sis­tency be­ing the two main in­gre­di­ents.

Pro­vid­ing an in­spi­ra­tional mes­sage to go along with the sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion was key­note speaker Mark Pol­lock. From North­ern Ire­land, Pol­lock took sil­ver and bronze medals at the Com­mon­wealth Games in 2002 after los­ing his sight at the age of 22. After that, he be­came the first blind man to race to the South Pole. In 2010, he fell out of a sec­ond-storey win­dow, suf­fered a brain in­jury and be­came par­a­lyzed. De­ter­mined that he’s go­ing to find a cure for paral­y­sis, he’s now us­ing a robotic ex­oskele­ton and is train­ing for a marathon.—km

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