For the vast majority of strength and conditioning coaches, the concept of recovery goes hand-in-hand with work in the weight room or on the practice field.
“With all of the things you can do on the field and in the weight room, coaches are getting these athletes to go a hundred miles per hour,” says Dave DiFabio, national accounts manager – team sports for Polar. “But how long can that be sustained if your student-athletes aren’t eating properly, hydrating properly, sleeping properly or paying attention to heart-rate recovery?”
DiFabio’s background is in exercise science and exercise physiology. He’s worked as both a personal trainer and strength and conditioning coach during his career.
“Coaches can look at resting heart rate versus performance heart rate,” he says. “Resting heart rate can do some interesting things. Typically as the athlete gets into better shape resting heart rate can actually slow down, but if you continue to stress the athlete and not allow for proper recovery, resting heart rate can actually start to creep back up again.”
Some coaches may be surprised to know that if they keep pushing athletes to do more and more, they may see resting heart rate come back down again. This could fool some professionals into thinking an athlete has begun to recover and get back into shape.
“It’s actually the opposite,” says DiFabio. “A situation like that could indicate the athlete is chronically fatigued, or what we call parasympathetically overtrained. One of the many proposed symptoms of overtraining is a depressed resting heart rate. Performance heart rate could also be blunted. Again, on the surface this could appear to be a positive sign that the athlete is improving fitness levels. However it could also be a sign of fatigue. How can a coach tell the difference? Keep a close watch on heart rate trends, and performance over the course of the season so they can nip it in the bud before it goes too far.”
If an athlete is chronically fatigued, bad things can happen. Chronic fatigue can set an athlete up for soft tissue injuries, which can hamper them all season long.
“If an athlete’s strength and power output is down along with depressed or blunted heart rate response, a coach may describe him as a player that’s been ‘fighting it’ all season,” says DiFabio. “This can turn into something more serious if the athlete isn’t taking advantage of various recovery strategies. As the chronic fatigue worsens, it’s not hard to imagine a day where the athlete lands improperly from a jump or couldn’t control a high-speed deceleration. All of a sudden, there goes the ACL or some other soft tissue trauma occurs..
“Sometimes, when you look at the recovery data, if you’ve been tracking that sort of thing like we do with Polar systems, you can see that this athlete was setting up for trouble. You may think that ACL came from out of nowhere, but if you go back and trace the heart-rate and performance data, you may find signs that something unfortunate was coming.”
About Polar – www.polar.com/teamsports
Polar is the Pioneer of wearable sports and fitness technology and leader in heart rate monitoring, activity trackers and training computers. With nearly 40 years of experience and a proud heritage in innovative physiological and sports medical research, we cater to all levels of fitness by offering a comprehensive product range including cycling computers, wearable sports devices and activity trackers, training apps and online services. Our award-winning training computers are the number one choice among consumers worldwide, being sold through over 35,000 retailers globally. Headquartered near Oulu in Finland, Polar is a privately held company that operates in more than 80 countries including U.S. headquarters in Lake Success, NY.
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