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What Do You Track? Key Metrics To Monitor And Improve Performance

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“If you’re not testing, you’re guessing” is a revolving yet relevant saying within the world of sport. This isn’t to say that basing training on feel is over, far from it. Perception and ‘sensory data’ of how your body is responding is the most critical and influential piece of the athletic-puzzle. However, in the midst of heavy training it becomes natural to associate tiredness as the new everyday norm, which often makes it difficult to determine when that thin red line has been crossed… until it’s too late.

For decades physiological testing and monitoring was reserved for the few, given its cost and invasiveness. The bio-tech revolution has changed that, putting physiological tools into our hands in the shape of smart-phones and watches. With a few apps, metrics can now be monitored to allow any level of athlete to get closer than ever before to reaching their potential.

Unfortunately your phone cannot (at least yet) draw and analyse your blood or provide physiological testing, so the lab maintains a pivotal place. Still, in terms of day-to-day monitoring there are several key performance indicators which can be tracked, as explained by Dr. Kevin Sprouse of Podium Sports Medicinewho is also  the team physician and Medical Director of the Cannondale-Drapac Pro Cycling Team.

Daily Measures

I recommend that you track some metrics every day.  For some, this seems onerous.  If you are one of those who are not inclined to delve into daily metrics, I’d suggest you start with some very basic ones.  Here’s a list that starts with the most basic and moves toward the more involved.  Every active person with a goal-driven training plan should be following one or more of these metrics daily!  If you use software like Training Peaks, you can even journal your data for the purposes of trending.

Resting Heart Rate – Simply a measure of your heart rate when you first wake up, before leaving bed.  Can give you information on your overnight recovery and whether you may need to alter your training plan to avoid illness or injury.  You can even get free smartphone apps that will measure your heart rate with the camera!  No excuses!

Subjective Evaluation – What does that mean?  Basically, it’s listening to your body.  Easy, right?  Too many of us start the day by looking at our email inbox and text message stream before even getting out of bed!  By that time, who knows how you are really feeling!?!  Take the first 30 minutes of every day (at a minimum) to ease into the day and get in touch with yourself and your body.  (Sounds like crazy hippy talk!)  Seriously, sports science research shows that your subjective evaluation is very predictive of your current readiness for training.  How did you sleep?  Are you sore from yesterday?  Starting to feel a little sick?  Ready to tackle Mt. Everest?  Those feelings are important.  Even sophisticated software for gauging recovery (like RestWise) puts significant emphasis on this data.  You should too.

Sleep – Many fitness trackers will now also track your sleep patterns, some with much greater accuracy than others.  This is a simple metric which can be collected, quite literally, while you sleep!

Heart Rate Variability – Without going into a long explanation, HRV is a measure of the time difference between heart beats.  A high level of variability generally indicates a high level of recovery.  Measuring HRV is a bit more involved and “scientific” than some athletes care to bother with.  But for those who spend the extra 3-5 minutes each morning, this can be something that can truly help to guide training.  You can now get smartphone apps that do this in a rather inexpensive but accurate manner.  If you are not interested in manually taking the time to collect this data each day, some advanced fitness trackers are now doing this while you sleep.  I’ve been using a WHOOP band which measures sleep, HRV, temperature, physiologic strain throughout the day, and more.  It’s pricier than a smartphone app, but it does all the work for you.  There are other devices that will do this as well (the OURA Ring is one which is less expensive but that I found less reliable when measuring sleep), and many of the more advanced sports watches are starting to implement some of this technology.

Weekly / Monthly Measures

Body Weight – I don’t see much utility in measuring your weight daily, but it can be a useful metric when collected at the same time each week.  If your sole goal is weight loss, you may not want to even check it that often.  But for those athletes who are following a performance-oriented training plan, you’ll want to see that you are not gaining or losing weight too quickly.  Weight gain could indicate water retention and inflammation.  Excessive weight loss could be due to inappropriate nutritional fueling.  Both are undesirable.

Body Composition – With the advent of technology that makes body composition measurement simple and accurate, many athletes will want to follow this monthly.  Most people want to decrease fat mass in increase muscle.  Using something like an inexpensive ultrasound measurement of body fat (MuscleSound) can give you regular data to assess whether your training plan is working.  If you are loosing weight but much of that is muscle, you are setting yourself up for failure.  Take a look to see how you are responding to your training.

Training Load / Training Stress – Most of the metrics I’ve mentioned look at how your body responds to training.  In order to know how to modify that training load, you must have some objective measure of it.  The most ubiquitous measure is TSS (or “Training Stress Score”).  I’d guess that most training software and online training diaries now use this metric, or some variation of it.  We won’t delve into its meaning here, but you can read about it on Training Peaks’ website if you are unfamiliar or need a refresher.  Whatever you follow, you need to know the intensity and duration of your training.  Without these metrics, you’re just making blind adaptations, which probably won’t go well.

Quarterly / Semi-annually

Body Composition – This deserves a place here as well.  If you are not tracking this metric every 4-6 weeks, then you’ll definitely want to check it a few times per year!

Blood Tests – After your initial blood work at the beginning of the season, you’ll surely have some things you need to reassess.  If your iron levels were low and you’ve been supplementing, you’ll want to recheck that.  Likewise, athletes need to ensure that an increased training load has not led to any problems.  A quick test every 4-6 months is warranted for any active individual with a goal of health and athletic performance.

Strength and Movement Assessment – You underwent this assessment at the beginning of the year, were prescribed some personalized corrective exercises, and have been diligent in doing them regularly.  But increased training load and the rigors of competition (and of life in general) can often lead to changing mechanical stressors.  A mid-year checkup is often well worth it!

Physiologic Testing –  Your goal is to get fitter.  You’ve spent months strictly following a training plan with the aim of increasing your aerobic capacity and the speed at which you can compete.  How do you know you’ve been optimally successful?  You need to retest!  A repeat lactate threshold test, +/- VO2max, at mid-season is crucial to ensuring your training plan is responsive and continues to stress you appropriately.

The Comeback Kids: How Team NZ Won The America’s Cup

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Emirates Team New Zealand have won the oldest trophy in sport, The America’s Cup, for the 3rd time.

Many around the world can’t wrap their heads around why a country like New Zealand can be so enthralled (at least every few years) by sailing. In the United States and indeed most other places, sailing is a patrician past-time. Not so in ‘way down-under’ New Zealand, where the colour of your collar means nothing more than the size of the chip on your.

Team New Zealand have been painted as the outsiders in the event in Bermuda this year. They were the last to arrive, while the other challengers created a cosy-relationship with one another – none more so than Oracle Team USA and their little brother SoftBank Japan, while New Zealand have kept to themselves. This should come as no surprise to the rest of the world. New Zealand is a small, isolated country. They do things their own way down there; they thrive on being the underdogs and insist on the tagline even when they’re not.

To prepare for this years competition they stayed in New Zealand while the rest of the teams often raced together. They trained alone, tested alone. To those who aren’t acclimatized to it, this attitude can be mistaken for arrogance. New Zealand call it ingenuity. While Oracle Team USA were stunned, the Kiwi’s were likely the least surprised today.

At the beginning of 2017, new changes to the format of the America’s Cup were proposed, with all current challengers signing on with the exception of Emirates Team New Zealand. The new format would result in a two-yearly event, with the intention being to provide more stability and room for long-term planning to encourage more teams, sponsors and viewers alike. Team New Zealand didn’t blink. They won the Auld Mug the traditional way in San Diego for the first time in 1995, and will defend it as so as winners in 2017.

In 2013 Team New Zealand were in an unlosable position, and lost. With all the turmoil that surrounded the team in the ensuing years: no money, a coup to oust their CEO, and replacing their skipper of the past 14 years, the average punter would not expect a kiwi-comeback like this. Yet perhaps it was exactly what Team New Zealand needed; to be back as the underdogs and with that chip placed firmly back on the shoulder.

5 Reasons Why Team NZ’s Campaign Is Different Than San Francisco In 2013

via FairFax

1. SUPERIOR PACKAGE

Team NZ's decision to delay their arrival in Bermuda is proving to be a masterstroke.

Team NZ’s decision to delay their arrival in Bermuda is proving to be a masterstroke.

Overall, Team New Zealand cleary have a superior boat, maximising it to perform in the 6-12 knot wind range which has been ever-present throughout the regatta, particularly during the finale.

But the management of their prime asset has been equally as important.

While the likes of the “cyclor” grinding system and wingsail control have proven to be tremendous innovations, they came with plenty of risk.

Chief executive Grant Dalton deserves plenty of credit for Team NZ's success.

Chief executive Grant Dalton deserves plenty of credit for Team NZ’s success.

However, Team NZ never wavered in their belief, sacrificing valuable match-racing practice on the Great Sound to delay their arrival in Bermuda and keep them secret for as long as possible.

That proved to be crucial as, once their rivals realised the Kiwis were on to a good thing, it was far too late to replicate.

2. ORACLE SHOOT THEMSELVES IN THE FOOT

It’s been well documented that the introduction of several “one design” elements to the AC50 class has limited Oracle’s options to drastically overhaul their cat.

As defenders, that was their call which they have to live with. But it should be noted that they have made significant gains since last week’s five-day break.

Despite losing both races on Sunday (Monday NZ time), they were half a knot faster on average than Team NZ.

Trouble is, they haven’t mastered the handling of the new package. Given another week or so, they may be just as good or, dare I say, even better than the Kiwis.

But unfortunately for the well-funded Americans, time is one luxury they cannot afford.

3. NO SCARS FROM SAN FRANCISCO

Oracle can go on about 2013 all they want; apart from skipper Glenn Ashby, who has led the team brilliantly in his own understated way and been the perfect foil for Peter Burling, this young Kiwi crew simply have no fear of Spithill and the Oracle machine.

All new to the cut and thrust world of the America’s Cup, they have improved with every race to the point where they are now beginning to master the off-water antics and take Spithill on at his own game.

Take Burling, for example, who despite losing to Oracle on Saturday proceeded to prod the ‘Pitbull’, ribbing the much-vaunted Aussie skipper about how it was about time they started to put up a fight.

He then backed that up on Monday with a cheeky hand gesture after schooling Oracle in the startbox.

Confident in the team and their own ability, they feel Spithill’s bark is far worse than his bite.

4. DALTON LEARNS HIS LESSONS

A lightning rod for criticism following 2013, Grant Dalton has purposely kept a low profile this time around.

But make no mistake, Team NZ would not be in the position they are now if it wasn’t for the perserverance of their dogged chief executive.

Dalton has been diligently working away in the background, making bold decisions in the boardroom as well in the boatshed, running the team on a shoestring budget compared to many of their rivals.

It hasn’t all been perfect, with Dalton again coming under fire over his handling of Dean Barker’s exit.

But ultimately, he has been proven right and after playing second fiddle to the likes of Sir Peter Blake and Sir Russell Coutts over the years, it is now time for Dalton to take his place in the sun.

5. NZ GROWS UP

Dalton isn’t the only one to take a few lessons on board.

This country has a bit of a habit of getting ahead of itself when the going is good for its sports teams, only to stick the boot in when they fall over.

The events of San Francisco means there was always going to be a great deal of apprehension from the public towards this campaign.

 

Fit For The Sea: The Daily Diet Of Oracle Team USA

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  This article originally appeared on The Red Bulletin  

WHAT DO THE WORLD’S BEST SAILORS EAT TODAY VERSUS 250 YEARS AGO?

When you think of the word “sailor,” what do you picture? A leathery man sporting a blazer and an ascot? Captain Ahab? Jack Sparrow? If you imagine an athlete with the physique and diet of an Olympian, then chances are you’re pumped for the 35th America’s Cup in Bermuda.

In the past decade, yacht racing has undergone monumental changes, transforming into a much more physical sport that requires a very strict diet. “If they’re unhealthy and fat, they’re not going to do their job,” according to Oracle Team USA nutritionist Scott Tindal.

To get a glimpse at what it takes to be defending America’s Cup champions, Tindal provided the daily diet of Team Oracle USA, which is packed with enough protein to practically feed a naval fleet. As a comparison, we pulled the diet of the British Royal Navy, circa late 1700s, when they were an unmatched world power on the sea. What did it take to feed thousands of men when they were at sea for months at a time? A lot of biscuits, beef and beer. Sounds kind of delicious, until your gums start to bleed from a lack of vitamin C. Getting scurvy sucks.

DAILY DIET FOR TEAM ORACLE USA 

MORNING, PRE-TRAINING

2 slices whole-wheat toast with peanut butter

MORNING, POST-TRAINING

Whole milk 700 ml with 2 scoops of TRUE POST (40 grams protein, 30 grams carbs)

BREAKFAST

4 eggs, 200 grams of chicken breast, roasted tomatoes, ½  to 1 avocado, handful of arugula, olive oil. Plus, 300 grams of cooked oats in coconut milk, 50 grams of Greek yoghurt, 100 grams of berries, 15 grams of maple syrup, and a large latte coffee

SNACK

1 to 2 packets of shot bloks, 600 ml of SOS Hydration 

LUNCH, IF ON SHORE

Salad, 200 to 300 grams of vegetables, 200 grams of rice or pasta, 200 to 300 grams of protein source (beef/lamb/fish/shellfish/chicken), oil for cooking (coconut or olive)

LUNCH, IF ON WATER

300 grams of pasta with 200 to 300 grams of protein source (beef/lamb/fish/shellfish/chicken), egg tarts, fruit salad, protein balls (homemade), muffins/cookies, shot bloks, Red Bull, True Protein Cyclic Dextrose plus water, SOS Hydration.

AFTERNOON SNACK, AFTER SAILING OR TRAINING

200 grams of rice or pasta, 200 to 300 grams of protein source (beef/lamb/fish/shellfish/chicken), sauce

DINNER, SELF-REGULATED BUT IDEALLY

Vegetables or salad (majority), a carb source (quinoa/pasta/couscous/rice), 200 to 300 grams of protein source (beef/lamb/fish/shellfish/chicken)

Optional: True Protein Casein Protein drink with milk before bed

Team NZ 1 Win From America’s Cup Final

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Falling behind early on in the day to go level with the Swedes at 2-2, the Kiwi’s bounced back with 2 more wins of their own to take a commanding 4-2 lead.

New Zealand now sit on match-point in the America’s Cup final decider, but it wasn’t without some last minute drama as Blair Tuke explains in the video below.

It Looks Cool, But I’m Confused: The America’s Cup explained

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The America’s Cup is never the same each time it’s contested. The rules change, the boats change… sometimes it isn’t even held on an ocean. The teams are from countries but don’t actually represent countries and sometimes they don’t even have anyone from that country on the boat. With that in mind, one can be forgiven for not being able to quite understand what the hell is going on at this years event in Bermuda.

The boats themselves are works of art and science traveling at speeds of over 80 kph (50 mph), which undoubtedly makes for good viewing. However, there is little comparison to other events for the average punter to help with engagement. We’re here to help.

Now that we’re into the ‘play-offs’, here is a bit of a rundown as to what’s going on, what’s up next, and what actually happened almost 2 years ago.

In the past, there was a challenger series between teams to see who would then face the current holder of the cup, known as the Louis Vuitton Cup. In order to try and make the event a bit more sexy, this traditional race has now been divided into 2 events: a round robin phase and a semi-final ‘play-off’ phase.

To confuse as many people as possible, one team started the event with 2 more points than the others as a result of the America’s Cup World Series last year. Moreover, the team which is already in the ‘final’, i.e. the current holder of the America’s Cup (Oracle Team USA) is competing in the round robin phase for some reason. Of the 6 teams that started, 1 team is eliminated (now confirmed as Team France) and 1 team excuses itself and gets ready for the main race – the defending champions, Oracle Team USA.

That leaves 4 teams to battle it out in a first-to-five win semifinal series. The top challenger (now confirmed as Emirates Team New Zealand) gets to pick their opponent, a move that is pretty unique for any sporting event. That of course leaves the remaining two of the four teams to race. Each semi-final winner will then race in another first-to-five series to decide who will eventually face Oracle Team USA for the actual America’s Cup.

So there you have it. ‘One’ event, which is actually 4 events, but only the final one is what counts for the trophy with which they are all named after.

The point is, the racing is exciting, the boats are fast, and the setting is spectacular. These are phenomenal athletes on flying race-car-like boats. Its magical.

Here is a cool video:

UPDATE: Britain Fight Back In America’s Cup

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Team BAR recorded their first America’s Cup Qualifiers win since Saturday’s opening day with victory over Sweden on day four of racing in Bermuda.

The six-man British crew, steered by Ben Ainslie, won by 30 seconds to end a run of four straight defeats.

Ainslie’s Land Rover BAR team now have two wins from their six races – both against Sweden.

The result means Britain stay in third place on four points, two clear of Sweden, France and Japan.

New Zealand are in second, while the United States top the standings.

“We made some big changes to the boat and we had a great race,” said Ainslie, whose crew take on New Zealand and France on Wednesday.

It’s a big win for us but we need to keep looking forward.

Standings and how it works

America’s Cup Qualifiers
Team Wins Losses Total points
United States* 5 1 6
New Zealand 5 1 5
Great Britain* 2 4 4
Sweden 2 5 2
Japan 2 3 2
France 2 4 2
  • *Land Rover BAR started the round-robin qualifiers with two points and Oracle Team USA with one point after finishing first and second respectively in the 2015-16 World Series
  • Each team races the other teams twice in this stage, gaining one point per victory, with the top four progressing
  • Defending champions USA skip the next stage and advance automatically to the America’s Cup matches

What about the rest of the field?

Sweden led for the majority of their race against New Zealand but the Kiwis took advantage of a late slip-up for victory.

In Tuesday’s other race on the Great Sound, the United States comfortably beat France, who were almost two minutes adrift.

Schedule

Wednesday, 31 May

Race 4 – Japan v France, Race 5 – Great Britain v New Zealand, Race 6 – United States v Japan, Race 7 – France v Great Britain

Full schedule

What happens next?

The top four qualifiers are split into two best-of-five semi-finals from 4 June, with the winners competing in the final for the right to take on holders Oracle Team USA, who advance automatically to the actual America’s Cup matches.

The first to seven points wins the America’s Cup, or the Auld Mug as the trophy is known, with a possible 13 races to be sailed on 17-18 and 24-27 June.

The America’s Cup, the oldest competition in international sport, was first raced in 1851 around the Isle of Wight and has only been won by four nations.

VIDEO: How America’s Cup boats fly

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The modern America’s cup is all about speed, and has been compared to Formula 1 racing, yet the goal of the boats in this years event in Bermuda is to almost never touch the water. Instead, they’ll fly over it.

The 35th America’s Cup will take place in Bermuda from 17-27 June 2017.

The winner of the Challenger Series will race against holders Oracle Team USA in a best-of-13 series.

Facts & Stats

1. The America’s Cup is the oldest active trophy in international sport, predating The Ashes and modern Olympic Games by decades.

2. Land Rover BAR will be the first British team to challenge for the Cup in 16 years.

3. It’s the hardest trophy in sport to win. Since 1851 just four nations have won: Australia (once), New Zealand and Switzerland (twice) and the USA (28 times).

4. It’s not named after the United States. The Cup is named after a boat that raced 15 rivals in 1851 from the Royal Yacht Squadron around the Isle of Wight. The schooner America dominated the 53-mile course and beat the runner-up by a total of eight minutes.

5. The Cup itself is an ornate sterling silver bottomless ewer, one of several off-the-shelf trophies crafted in 1848 by Garrad & Co. It was purchased and donated to the Royal Yacht Squadron for its 1851 regatta.

6. Originally the race was just for two boats – the Defender and the Challenger.

The Defender and Challenger actually represent Yacht Clubs (not countries) but to date there has never been two entries from the same country, so teams are often referred to by their nationality instead.

 

 

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