Upcoming Pro-D opportunities

There are some first class professional development opportunities coming to BC this fall. The annual Petro-Canada Sports Leadership Conference runs Nov 3,4,5 in Richmond. There is an impressive line-up of presenters for this 3 day event including the highly engaging Dr Wade Gilbert. We already have a group of 6 BC Alpine coaches headed there. For more details CLICK HERE

The Okanagan Sport Leadership Conference also takes place October 15th. This is a one day event and features guest speaker Dr Stephen Norris. More details here For more details CLICK HERE

BCA Coaches Meeting and Upcoming Coach EDU

Great to see you this past week at our coaches meetings. For those of you who were unable to attend, Here is a a PDF of the presentation I did on Back Health and Performance.

Back Health and Performance for Alpine Skiers (2016)

It’s a complex subject and hard to cover that much in 45 minutes. I recommend that if you are interested in knowing more then refer to the readings at the end of the PDF. There are a lot of information out there addressing ‘core training’ and ‘back health’ but few are as evidence based as the references provided. The book ‘Low Back Disorders’ is available free in PDF version to download. If there are issues you’d like to discuss, pls feel free to drop me a line.

Upcoming coach EDU opportunities

The Canadian Sport Institutes ‘High Performance Coach Advance’ takes place in Victoria June 3-4. Click here for more information.


All for now,

National Coaches Week in BC Sept 19-27

With 2015 proclaimed the Year of Sport, September 19 – 27, 2015 will mark the first ever National Coaches Week, a Canada-wide celebration of coaches from grassroots to professional levels. During national coaches week, a variety of NCCP courses will be offered across BC Visit http://www.viasport.ca/coachesweek for more details.

During national coaches week, athletes can recognize their coach by taking a photo with them, tweet with #thankscoach and tag@viasport for a chance to win an awesome prize!

BCA Coaches Blog – Is strength training safe and effective for young athletes?

Some common questions I hear from parents regarding strength training programs are, is it safe, is it effective and how hard should intensity be (load)? Data collected in the 1970s and 1980s concluded that resistance training was unsafe for children and adolescents and this dogma has prevailed. However, further analysis of the data showed that the injuries were caused by inappropriate training techniques, excessive loading, poor equipment and a lack of qualified supervision (Faigenbuam, 2009). In short, a well-designed, age appropriate strength program which takes into account maturational age and experience, is well supervised and progressed appropriately will put the child at a lower risk of injury and will improve their performance in sport. If you’re interested in learning more, read on………..

The primary concern surrounding strength training young athletes has been potential damage that may occur to growth plates. These can be separated into 3 main sites: the epiphyseal plate (a cartilage plate in the metaphysis at the end of long bones), the cartilage lining the bone of the joint (articular cartilage) and at the junctures where the bone meets the tendon, known as the apohpysis (Faigenbaum, 2000). The concern is that damage can occur which would cause the growth plate to fuse earlier than normal, resulting in a premature cessation of growth. A secondary concern would be that strength training is ineffective in preadolescent athletes due to a low level of androgens which promote muscle hypertrophy.

Interestingly, Faigenbaum and Myer (2010) found very little data which supported the notion that strength training increases injury risk in children or adolescents who follow age related guidelines and are well supervised. In fact, the National Strength and Conditioning Association recommend strength training as an effective method by which to reduce the incidence of sport-related injuries. Faigenbaum (2009) found that of 1576 sports related injuries reported in a study of school-aged youth, resistance training comprised 0.7% of injuries while football represented 19%. Conclusion? The incidence of injury in young athletes is WAY higher in their sports than in strength training. Vaughn and Micheli (2008) report that the few instances in which strength training resulted specifically in epiphyseal plate damage were the result of poor lifting technique, lifting maximal loads and having inadequate supervision. In addition, it has been suggested (Faigenbaum, 2000) that the preadolescent child is actually less vulnerable to growth plate damage when compared to the period around puberty and PHV as the growth plates in preadolescents seem to be stronger and more resilient to shearing forces. Faigenbaum and Myer (2010) comment that “in the vast majority of resistance training intervention studies summarized….the injury occurrence in children and adolescents was either very low or nil and the resistance training stimulus was tolerated well by subjects” (p.57).

During puberty, a ten-fold increase in testosterone is found in boys that can have a profound influence on the development of muscle mass (Faigenbuam, 2010). Girls benefit less from an increase in testosterone, but will experience an increase in the production of estrogen around puberty which will result in a widening of the hips, increased body fat and breast growth. Muscle mass increases more markedly in boys than it does in girls due to the greater presence of testosterone (an anabolic hormone). It is a common strategy to enhance muscle growth following PHV using strength training to promote hypertrophy. The peak incidence of damage to the ephiphyseal plate occurs around the time of PHV (Faigenbaum, 2000). It is advisable that, during this period, the coach will be required to monitor load and technique carefully as improper technique combined with heavy loads lifted during this period may increase the possibility of injury. The Long term athlete development plan ‘Canadian Sport for Life’ (Canadian Sport Centres, 2007) gives some guidelines for implementing strength training based on Peak Strength Velocity (PSV). They suggest that peak strength velocity for girls comes shortly after PHV at the onset of menarche, while for boys it occurs 12-18 months after PHV. This is considered the optimal ‘window of trainability’ for strength as hormone production increases dramatically while growth subsides.

Having trained athletes for a variety sports over the last 20 years, I can tell you that muscle hypertrophy is not something that can be rushed or even predicted. It is a common occurrence to witness the tall, skinny teenage boy in the weights room at the local rec centre lifting a weight that is way too big, through a restricted range of motion and with poor technique that results from excessive overload, with the belief that this will increase his size. Then he has a Big Mac afterwards (or nothing at all) to recover. And he probably has a giant tub of creatine at home.

The reality is that increases in muscle size (hypertrophy) will occur when the athlete’s hormonal profile allow it AND when the athlete has been taught effective training, recovery and nutrition interventions. The primary benefit of strength training for pre-adolescent children seems to be neural adaptations whereby motor unit recruitment, intra-muscular coordination, muscular activation and firing are enhanced (Faigenbaum et al. 2009; Faigenbaum, 2000) resulting in strength gains. Therefore, the groundwork for gains in muscle size can be established before and during puberty. Doing this will expedite gains once the athlete is past the growth spurt as motor control is established.

It’s also important to recognise the genetic variance in body types, referred to as ‘somatotype’. Certain body types lend themselves to success in certain sports. For example, ‘ectomorphs’ are long and lean and carry less body fat. Mesomorphs are generally more muscular. Somatotype will have an effect on how muscular an athlete will become through strength training. Some individuals struggle to gain muscle despite disciplined training practise. Others get big if they so much as look at a weight. Fortunately, there is much more to strength development that just building bigger muscles (otherwise body builders would be world-class athletes). Also, successful ski racers come in no particular size and shape, unlike high jumpers or marathon runners.

The guidelines below are from the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association:


Training any athlete follows a set of basic principles and should be progressed in a similar way regardless of age – this starts with the development or core / hip strength and mobility developed through body weight / lighter loads and full range of movement. The athlete works on their foundation (core / hip / shoulder stability + mobility) while developing technique in the bigger lifts. Strong arms and legs are useless to an athlete unless they have a strong core through which to transmit force. As the athlete moves from their growth spurt to full stature, maximum strength type work can be achieved provided the foundation has been laid early on. This approach leads to long term success. More challenges are presented when the athlete grows rapidly – loss of flexibility and coordination are typical amongst adolescent athletes.

It is also important to realise the transfer of work you do in the gym to the ski hill. Although young athletes tend to follow more generic programs, the principle of specificity should be followed for young skiers in strength programs:

-A greater emphasis on lower extremity strength
-An emphasis on eccentric control (e.g. lowering phase of the squat).
-An emphasis on developing explosive movement (e.g. plyometrics progressions)
-Develop unilateral (one-sided) strength as well as bi-lateral strength
-An emphasis on change of direction speed
-An emphasis on torso / hip stability training(esp. anti-rotational ability).

Here are some the principles to follow to keep athletes safe and progressing:

-Spend a lot of time on a progressive warm up that prepares them to lift. Mine usually takes 30-40 mins.
-Progressive overload: Increase the resistance every 1-2 weeks in small increments. Demand that the athlete do every rep with perfect form and the prescribed range of movement. With any athlete who is either pre-adolescent or in the growth spurt, I don’t go below 6RM.
-Supervise your athletes! You have to watch them like a hawk. Explain why doing a half squat with poor form is detrimental. Teach them gym etiquette.
-Variety: change the program every 3-6 weeks to promote new adaptations. You need to give them time to learn exercises and execute them properly before you introduce any overload.
-Teach them safety techniques such as use of racks, collars and spotting.

All for now,

AndrewLambert signature

Research Review: Active Recovery Between Training Runs

Success in alpine ski racing is determined by a multitude of factors, one of which is an athlete’s ability to tolerate high volume training blocks on-snow during the summer and the fall months. If skill acquisition depends on repetition, then successfully acquiring a new skill requires the athlete to execute specific movement patterns at high intensity, run after run, day after day. If the velocity of movements is reduced due to fatigue, then arguably the athlete is no longer practising the same skill.

Traditionally, our focus on-hill has been to advise the athletes on appropriate hydration and nutrition interventions for them to recover between runs, as well as warm up / activations routines. We use a number of recovery methods off hill to ensure they are able to train well the next day. Our programs stress improving work capacity in the off-season so that the athlete will recover well during passive rest intervals (e.g. sitting on a chairlift or at the start of the training course).

I recently reviewed a new research article (White and Wells, 2015) which examined the effect of performing active recovery between runs in order to expedite the removal of metabolic waste products such as lactate. During highly intense, anaerobic activities such as ski training, accumulation of lactate results in a decrease in muscle PH and as a result muscle contractions are impaired (slowed down). The researchers hypothesized that active recovery between runs would result in lower blood lactate concentrations and as a result the athletes who did active recovery would have improved training run times and greater success completing courses than those who did static recovery only.

Research methods

This research is  interesting because of the relevance of the population studied to club and provincial team coaches. The environment in which the study was conducted is also highly relevant. The subjects were fourteen male and female athletes competing on the Nor Am and NCAA circuit. They were 17-20 years old. Average FIS point profiles were 42.9 (+/- 17.4 FIS points). The research was conducted on the Mt Hood glacier at 2600m.

The study was conducted on the first day of an 8 day camp. Participants were randomly assigned to either an active recovery group (ACT) or a passive recovery group (CON).   Following a standardized warm up, male athletes skied at 25 gate GS (26.5m radius) and women skied a 45 gate slalom (9m radius). Blood lactates were measured immediately before each training run and two minutes following the training run. Each athlete performed 8 runs.  The ACT group walked along the road above the ski course for 3 minutes at slow-moderate pace following their run. The CON group remained static in their skis at the top of the course for 3 minutes.


Blood lactate measures were significantly higher for the CON (passive) compared with the ACT (active) group by runs 5-8. No difference were recorded with regards to perception of fatigue. The CON group had significantly slower times in run 5 and 6 and no male athlete completed runs 7 or 8. The ACT group had faster runs by run 6 compared with the CON group. Most interestingly, eleven DNF’s were recorded for the CON group, of which the majority were in the final 2 runs, whereas the ACT group recorded zero DNF’s.


The study concludes that “3 minutes of on-hill active recovery performed at the top of a training run resulted in significantly lower blood lactate concentration than static recovery,” (White and Wells, p.804).


The sample size used in this study was relatively small.  Further research would be required to repeat the study and confirm the findings.  The authors acknowledged that they encountered some technical difficulties, specifically a timing malfunction on the women’s slalom course which resulted in no objective measure for this group.  Ski training / racing occurs under a wide variety of conditions which may impact recovery.  The effects of higher altitude, heat, cold and different terrain / snow conditions should be examined in future research.

Discussion and Practical Implications

Anecdotal data and observation from coaches in the past tell us that failure to recover between runs is a limiting factor in accomplishing high intensity training volume, which is in turn a limiting factor to success in alpine ski racing. Most of the training focus in the past has been driven (I think correctly) towards creating an ‘engine’ which can tolerate high volumes of training, as well as appropriate post-training recovery. This quality is referred to in training as ‘work capacity’.

This study has some practical implications for ski coaches to consider. While the athletes performing static recovery did not feel they were more fatigued than the active recovery group (perception of fatigue scores) the lactate profiles show they clearly were. The authors speculate that this perception was a result of peripheral rather than central nervous system fatigue. Coaches should recognise that using this intervention may not be recognised by athletes as helpful, as they may not necessarily feel more prepared for their next training run after active recovery. The subtle effects of active recovery should be reinforced by the coach.

Impaired muscle function and motor control are connected with a higher risk for injury. Increased lactate production and failure to remove lactate impairs muscle function and so may put the athlete at a greater risk of injury. The coach could potentially mitigate this risk by having athletes do a short bout of active recovery between runs.

This study examined the effect of 3 minutes of moderate paced walking on clearing lactate. It is well acknowledged that there are some practical limitations to doing 3 minutes of walking at the top of a training run. In cold, winter conditions, this may actually be harmful to the athlete as they will cool down and then perhaps be even less prepared. The study was conducted in warm temperatures on a glacier where access is easy. This is not always the case. Future studies may look at the effect of other forms of movement (e.g. dynamic stretching) as well as timing of active recovery (e.g. at the bottom of the training run vs the top). It would also be interesting to experiment with this protocol at different points in the training session. For example, the athlete may not do active recovery until they start to feel fatigue building OR their run times start to fall off. If the training session is anticipated to involve high lactate accumulations (e.g. training at high altitude, long courses, challenging terrain, challenging course sets) the coach may feel active recovery is necessary. If the training is relatively easy from a metabolic standpoint, then active recovery is likely to be less important to training success.


White, G.E & Wells, G.D. (2015) “The Effect of On-Hill Active Recovery Performed Between Runs on Blood Lactate Concentration and Fatigue in Alpine Skiers” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research 29(3):800-806.

ViaSport Coach of the Year Awards

Do you know an outstanding coach? If so, ViaSport is looking to hear from you!

ViaSport is now accepting nominations for their Coach of the Year Awards, open until Wednesday April 1, 2015.

The Coach of the Year Awards were founded by the Coaches Association of BC and are funded by the Bob Bearpark Foundation to recognize BC coaches for their contribution to the advancement and well-being of the athletes in their sport.


Canadian Sport Institute – International Coaching School

Looking to further your coaching education this spring?

Pls click on this link to access information regarding International Coaching School opportunities coming up this spring. There is a week long course ‘Sport Performance Coaching Certificate’ and a 2 –day ‘High Performance Coach Advance’ available. Both are run by the Canadian Sport Institute.



Sleep – Canada’s Long Term Athlete Development Plan (LTAD)

Last month I wrote an article on athlete stress and recovery. One of the topics touched on was the importance of sleep for athletes. Did you know that Canada has an LTAD for sleep?  Written by leading experts, the ‘Sleep LTAD’ is a guide for parents, athletes and coaches interested in the role of sleep in human performance. The ‘Sleep LTAD’ covers the following topics:

• The importance of sleep for recovery and performance
• Sleep length and sleep quality
• Sleep disorders
• Sleep requirements at different stages of LTAD

Here’s a short excerpt regarding sleep and teenagers:

“It is very important for athletes, parents and coaches to be aware of the fact that at the time in life (12–18 years old) when adolescents require the most amount of sleep (9–10 hours per night) they tend to develop a delay in their biological clock (circadian sleep phase) that reduces the amount of time available for sleep. This results in a chronic sleep restriction during a time of increasing training demands, growth and development.”  Charles and Alexander.


If you are interested in reading more about sleep, here are some references:

• Samuels C. (2008) “Sleep, recovery, and performance: the new frontier in high-performance athletics.” Neurol Clin 2008;26(1):169-180.
• Coren, S. (1996) “Sleep Thieves.”
• Mednick, S.C. (2006) “Take a Nap! Change Your Life.”

All for now,

Andrew Lambert, BCA Director Sports Science



Athlete Stress and Recovery

STRESS! It is something we all encounter on a daily basis and it is impossible to avoid. In fact, in order to be successful, we need to encounter stress and deal with it appropriately. Failure to do so can be highly detrimental to performance in sport and in life. If we fail to deal with stress appropriately in the long term, we may suffer health consequences from chronic stress.

Stress is required for ADAPTATION to take place. If you want to improve your fitness, you have to stress physiological systems. Most importantly, physical adaptations do not take place during the training itself, but afterwards as the body works to normalise itself and be better prepared for the next (anticipated) effort.

When I think of recovery and communicating with athletes on this issue, I think of both the physical AND emotional stress they are under and the strategies they can use to reduce these stressors. It gets a bit more complicated when you consider that at times in the year you WANT your athletes to be under physical stress, and an incomplete recovery is often desirable to induce adaptation.
General adaptation syndrome was a response termed by Hans Seyle in the 1930s and is still highly relevant today. The model explains our response to stress in 3 stages:

1. Alarm reaction – this is our bodies initial reaction to a stressor when homeostasis is disrupted. During this phase our bodies ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in which essentially prepares us for the stressor.

2. Resistance phase – the body reacts to the stressor which it is exposed to. As an example, if there is a shortage of food, the person may experience a loss of desire to exercise in order to conserve energy.

3. Exhaustion stage – if the stressor continues our ability to adapt is reduced and the result may be chronic fatigue, illness etc. Or over-training in an athlete.

This theory is still highly relevant and is the basis of recovery principles for athletes. If we don’t push them hard enough, then there is no ‘alarm’ phase – homeostasis is not disrupted and adaptation cannot take place. However, if we do not plan sufficient rest, they will likely fall into the ‘exhaustion’ phase which in exercise physiology is termed over-reaching and can be followed by overtraining.

Over-reaching is a necessary goal of training during some periods of the year and is characterized by a highly demanding 3-6 week training block where either volume OR intensity is increased each week. I usually put a couple of over-reaching phases into my off-season program for more experienced athletes. Usually I will see the athletes performance go down as the weeks progress, below the level of fitness they started with. By the end of the block, they are totally baked! However, following an appropriate regeneration period, the athlete bounces back and we get what most conditioning coaches consider the holy grail of training which is SUPERCOMPENSATION. It is a bit unpredictable at times and highly individual. The benefits of training (e.g. an improvement in fitness) may be measured in the weeks and months that follow.


Over-training can occur when the athlete is in the exhaustion phase too long, and does not have appropriate recovery periods. The athlete may present some of these symptoms:
• Decline in exercise performance
• Persistent fatigue, muscle soreness
• Reduced heart rate variability
• Increased susceptibility to illness
• Mood changes
• Difficulty with sleep

Over training is different from over reaching in that the athlete does not bounce back following a regeneration period – I have heard of cases where the athlete took years to recover. From experience, I have seen over training occur more in endurance athletes whose training volumes are too high. I have not encountered a definitive case of over-training in 20 years of alpine coaching. I have seen coaches push the athlete well beyond what I thought was possible and still they recover. It may not have been OPTIMAL training, but it was not OVER TRAINING.


Stress is regulated through the autonomic nervous system. In response to a stressor (e.g. competition) the body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode – the sympathetic nervous system causes a host of physiological responses to occur, including increased heart rate, increased blood flow to muscles and lungs, and decreased blood flow to the digestive system. Our arousal level is increased so we are better able to deal with the stressor that is presented. The parasympathetic nervous system promotes a ‘rest and digest’ response. That is, heart rate is reduced and heart rate variability increases. In terms of the athlete, when they are in a parasympathetic state, they will feel relaxed and sleep and recover more effectively.

Chronic emotional stress can have a profound effect on the autonomic nervous system. The athlete’s arousal level should be dominated by a parasympathetic nervous system response when not training. Athletes who are constantly in a sympathetic arousal state do not recover very well from training. Most typically, I see this in athletes who are under emotional stress and have not found balance in their lives. They may be constantly stressed out about competition and results, about school, work, family, their health or relationships with others. Most important, constant emotional stress affects sleep which affects recovery. So, when I think of designing a recovery program for my athletes, the physical and emotional aspects of their lives must be considered. There are many ways in which you can plan recovery training for a more ‘parasympathetic’ response. Here are some examples of methods I use:

-Warm bath
-Listening to relaxing music; learn a musical instrument
-Deep breathing
-Spending time with people who are ‘energy gainers’ – good friends, family.

Ultimately, your athletes will feel less stressed if they feel well prepared, have had sufficient time to recover, and don’t feel overwhelmed by school and other commitments.

An important aspect of coaching is to monitor your athletes for signs of fatigue and/or emotional stress. I have used many highly sophisticated tools over the years (the Normatec ‘Space boots’, heart rate variability measurements; accellerometry). However, I still find a simple athlete questionnaire to be most effective (e.g. Hooper Mackinnon Questionnaire). When monitoring your athletes be sure to cover the following:

• Mental state (irritability, stress level, training enjoyment, sleep)
• Physical state (muscle soreness, fatigue, body weight, resting heart rate).

What strategies can the coach employ to promote recovery following training?

Given the information super-highway now available on the internet, there is a lot of information out there on recovery techniques and how/when to use them. I think it is very important to use an evidence based approach and so I lean towards methods which have been shown in peer-reviewed research to be effective over time. I also tend to recommend strategies which incur little or no cost or equipment as this is a barrier to most athletes. Here are the tried and tested methods:

1. SLEEP. It should not come as a surprise to you that consistently getting enough quality sleep is absolutely essential to recover. Everyone is individual in how much they need, although the average person needs ~8 hrs. Athletes often need more than this while some people seemed to do fine on 6-7 hrs. It is pretty easy to track your athlete’s sleep – if they fall asleep within 30 mins of getting into bed and sleep through the night with minimal disturbance, their sleep is likely sufficient. If you would like to learn more about sleep, recovery and human performance CLICK HERE AND DOWNLOAD THE PDF FROM DR. CHARLES SAMUELS

2. NUTRITION. During training, muscle glycogen and blood glucose are depleted. Failure to eat carbohydrate at regular intervals can result in lower than desirable stores of glycogen and poor performance. A goal of training is to cause damage to tissues. With the correct recovery period muscles can then adapt and become stronger and bigger. Proteins are found in every cell of the body and are needed to promote growth and repair of damaged cells and tissue. Without sufficient protein intake the recovery process may be delayed and adaptations may be sub-optimal. Here are some rules of thumb I follow with my athletes:
a. Eat 4-6 times per day (each feeding should contain a quality protein serving)
b. Lighter, easily digested meal 1-2 hrs before training
c. High GI carbs during training (if >1 hr) and after training
d. Carbs and protein should be taken within 30 mins of finishing a training session. This is when uptake to the muscle is optimal.
e. The brain can only use glucose for fuel and so maintaining blood glucose levels is crucial during training sessions. This is where higher glycemic index (more sugary) snacks are appropriate.
Nutrition is a huge part of recovery and adaptation and impossible to cover fully in this article.  CLICK ON THIS LINK AND YOU WILL FIND A VARIETY OF ARTICLES WRITTEN BY EXPERTS FROM THE CANADIAN SPORTS INSTITUTE
3. HYDRATION. Poor hydration can have a dramatic effect on sports performance. Effects may be both cognitive (e.g. slowing of decision making) and physical (early fatiguability). An average person is composed of around 60% water, while highly trained athletes are up to 70% water. In winter sports, we are faced with additional challenges. Cold dry air must be warmed and humidified before it can be taken into the lungs – this causes water loss. A person’s drive to drink, especially cold water, will likely be reduced. Add high altitude to the equation and it is very easy to become dehydrated. Here are some tips I give my athletes:
a. Aim to pee light lemon colour. Urination should be every few hours. Aim to drink most of your fluids by early evening to prevent waking up during the night.
b. Be prepared with fluids. Start packs allow you to keep sipping fluids every run.
c. Water is fine for shorter training sessions in normal temps.
d. Use an electrolyte beverage (e.g. Gatorade) if training for longer sesisons and / or in cold/ heat/high elevations.
e. Have a flask and bring teas to the hill with you. Add Gatorade and you have a palatable recovery drink.
4. PLAN REST DAYS AND RECOVERY WEEKS: As I talked about earlier, if you have your foot on the gas too long, your body does not have the opportunity to recover. Planning of recovery needs to occur throughout the training cycle – during microcycles (a training week); mesocycles (every 3-6 weeks) and macrocycles (the training year.)  Often you will try to employ recovery techniques to promote a faster rebound. I rarely prescribe passive recovery (complete rest).

5. METABOLIC RECOVERY: Otherwise termed a ‘flush’. These sessions should be employed following repeated high intensity training (e.g. ski full length courses multiple times). The athlete should do sustained low intensity work for 15-20 mins. This promotes the oxidation of the by-products of anaerobic work (e.g. hydrogen ion) by increasing oxygen delivery without causing additional fatigue. I ask my athletes to look for variety in how they achieve this – sitting on a spin bike after each session is not a great form of mental recovery for many athletes (although some love it). Try other forms of aerobic exercise including swimming, jog / hike, a light game or snow shoeing. I prefer unloaded methods (e.g. swimming).
The best way to ensure metabolic recovery is to attain a high level of aerobic fitness in the off-season. An athlete who has good aerobic fitness will recover much faster than an athlete who is weak in this area. This is the rationale for including a lot of targeted aerobic training in the summer/fall months – they will be more resilient during the competitive season.

6. COLD WATER IMMERSION: This form of recovery would be useful if you are anticipating muscle soreness. Research has shown that the optimal temp is around 10-15C (not an ice bath!) and the athlete should stay in there for 6-10 mins. This is quite accessible as anyone can run a cold bath at home!

7. SOFT TISSUE RECOVERY: Mobility is most important to athletes as it corresponds to athletic movement. The primary difference between mobility and flexibility is neuromuscular control.  And different sports require different levels of mobility.

If you goal is recovery, then static stretching is NOT the answer. Stretching is unlikely to reduce muscle soreness and may actually interfere with adaptation processes following training. Static stretching may help improve flexibility. However, dynamic stretching can have a greater impact on mobility (this is most important to athletes.)

Self-myofascial release (e.g. various rolling techniques) have gained great popularity in recent years. I incorporate various methods of rolling for recovery following workouts as they have a positive impact on mobility and may reduce the impact of muscle soreness. I am also a strong believer in sports massage as a form a tissue recovery. Different types of massage perform different functions. If you are looking for myofascial release, the massage therapist will likely have you in tears as they attempt to reduce fascial adhesions. A lighter more global massage helps to move fluids around the body.

8. WORKOUT! Many people think I’m crazy when I prescribe a hard and heavy workout for recovery and preparation for competition. However, done in the correct way an intense workout can bring you back to life. The goal of lifting during recovery and prep phases is to potentiate all available muscle fibers (e.g. slow and fast twitch). This requires the body to be under heavy load (e.g. intensity is high) so all available motor units (fast and slow) are recruited. The key thing to success with this type of workout is to pay close attention to frequency, intensity and volume. I would only prescribe these types of workouts to more experienced athletes who are well past the growth spurt and have trained at this intensity before.
Frequency: every 3-6 days per muscle group. If you delay longer than this, you may find yourself sore for training or competition.
Intensity: Warm up to 2-4RM.
Volume: 2 sets, 4-6 exercises.
Younger athletes should do strength sessions 2-3 times per week in the competitive season but work in a higher repetition range (6-12R) for whole body movements and generally following training when they don’t expect to ski the next day. Core/hip and upper body work can be done before a ski training day.
De-training is a huge issue for athletes during the competitive season. If we are constantly in a cycle of recovery (e.g. the classic ‘spin and stretch’), then it is likely that factors such as strength and endurance are suffering which means as the season progresses, your fitness will suffer. Regular maintenance training can not only increase energy levels, but can also reduce de-training effects.

All for now,


AndrewLambert signature

BC Coaches blog – Pain science and an interview with a Legend

Hey everyone,

A couple of interesting reads I looked at the last week I’d like to share.  The first one discusses issues surrounding ‘pain science’ by Dr Derek Griffin – in particular how pain could be exacerbated by lifestyle factors (stress created by anxiety, depression , poor sleep, nutrition etc) which can cause greater ‘sensitization’ to pain.  There are three excellent videos to watch also.  The final video is a documentary on Haile Gebrselassie and shows how he won some of his major championship titles and Olympic medals while in excruciating pain – there is evidence here to support the concept that the brain is a very important tool in overcoming, as well as succumbing to pain.  The author is not suggesting that athletes should be pushing through musculoskeletal pain, nor is he implying that techniques such as manual therapy and corrective exercise are not important.  The therapist plays a hugely important role in the athlete’s health.  There may, however, be some other factors at play here which we should all be aware of.


I also enjoyed an interview with veteran strength and conditioning coach Vern Gambetta on www.sportscoachradio.com In this interview, Vern shares a number of the key mistakes he made over the course of his (long) career as a coach.  These include:

  • Too much, too soon
  • Overloading the spine – Too often and too young
  • Too many exercises or drills in a training session.


All for now,

Andrew Lambert • Director of Sports ScienceBC Alpine Ski Association