8_factsheetsSince the last post, progress has been steady on the content upload and we’re now up to 8 factsheets in the new html based free resource section. I’m pleased to report that some of them have had a few hits too so it doesn’t feel like a wasted effort! Incidentally it’s been quite an experience reviewing some of the material. Although I wouldn’t say any of it is necessarily wrong, I don’t think I’d write things in the same way if I were to start from scratch and of the material that Helen wrote, although much of it helped shape my own coaching philosophy I do recognise that in more recent conversations with both Helen and Oli it’s become clear that there are more shades of grey than absolute certainty and labelling the material factsheets is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. ‘There is some evidence to suggest or generally tends to work in our experience’ sheets doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though!

Some of the content raised a few eyebrows on one of the UK message boards and it seems our decision to open up has been largely well received. It also raised an interesting debate over the nature of Sports Science and whether it’s actually any use at all. Here are a few thoughts I’ve been mulling over in the last few days.

One aspect of the debate stems from the lack of hard facts provided by sport science on seemingly trivial questions of training and performance enhancement. In an ideal world scientists could prove that intensity trumps volume, or that training for x hours at y% of your threshold will see you progress at the fastest rate but sadly things don’t work that way. If you want real certainty and irrefutable logic then become a mathematician, but be warned that the waters get a little murky around the edges in that field too...

So what use is sport science then if it can’t tell us the answers? The real strength comes from adopting the scientific method – a key tenet of which is “using a method of inquiry based on empirical and measurable evidence” (thank you Wikipedia). The human body is complex and the individual response to training is varied. Every type of training you do is experimental, there’s no way of knowing exactly what the response will be, but you can measure the effects. You’ll never know if doing something else might have had a better effect but by collecting data on the key performance markers you’ll certainly know when things aren’t working and make changes far quicker than if fumbling around in the dark without any measure of improvement. This is one reason that power meters have been truly revolutionary in the cycling world. It’s not just that they allow the collection of objective data, but that the data being collected is on such a critical factor in cycling performance – all else being equal more power equals more speed!

Road_to_successAnother argument is that people were racing very quickly in the past before sports scientists were on the scene and that’s undisputed. It’s often said that “success leaves a trail”. Well flip that on its head and I’d say failure often doesn’t leave a trail. With enough people participating in a given sport there are bound to be a few who having a natural gift for understanding what they need to succeed, or just being plain lucky that their chosen approach happened to be the correct one for them. What we don’t see is how many people got it completely wrong in these ‘golden days’. I’d argue that one of the key benefits of the scientific method is the speed with which errors are highlighted. In the absence of hard facts and certainty, the best we can do is minimise the time we spend up blind alleys and therefore increase the chance of eventually landing on the money. I’m sure this is one of the reasons behind the increased depth of competition across sport at all levels.

Now I’m not suggesting that athletic performance is purely a game of chance. The individuality concept can be overplayed – we are all similar in many regards and the general principles of training; specificity, overload, progression etc, all still apply and ensure that we’re not aiming blindly, and experience can identify characteristics in athletes that might encourage a certain approach. This is where art meets science and we begin to see real progress. Sports science is not a magic bullet that will provide the holy grail in athletic performance but a set of tools, or guiding principles that can help along the way. By no means definitive but just a few thoughts on where sports science sits within my own coaching philosophy at the moment...

And a slightly belated Happy New Year from all at PBscience :-)

Published in Blog
Saturday, 13 September 2014 15:59

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DanRoversIzoardPBscience is an online service offering expert cycling coaching. As well as working with cyclists across all disciplines (road, mountain biking and track), PBscience can also help those athletes participating in triathlon and duathlon with their cycling training. If you like the sound of our coaching philosophy and are looking for cycle coaching with an emphasis on sport science principles, then working with PBscience is for you!

In addition to our cycle coaching services, PBscience also offers exercise testing at the University of Brighton labs in Eastbourne, as well as educational workshops and training camps. We are committed to providing as much education and knowledge to the athletes we work with and our extensive resource library is testament to this.


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