Archive for March, 2018

While catching up on a bunch of recent episodes from the Perception & Action Podcast, I thought I might compile some of my thoughts on them as they relate to how we design effective training sessions.

The first of these focused on the rate of change in an athlete’s performance due to practice. Ep. 84 – Time Scales in Motor Learning

1:58 … We learn things at different rates and we do not learn at a consistent rate, experiencing periods of stagnation and even regression, with occasional lurches back to the norm or beyond. Some also progress faster than others. I think it’s important for coaches to be aware of this and help athletes not to get discouraged if things aren’t improving as quick as one would hope or if there are moments where they seem to go backwards. It’s all part of a normal learning process.

6:55 … “Warm-Up Decrement” is the time it takes someone to get back to an already-achieved level of performance when revisiting a known task. It’s probably not due to loss of ability, but in not being adequately prepared for the task at hand. So, it’s important that athletes be appropriately aroused for the task, focused on the right learning objectives and to have realistic expectations for the task’s procedure and possible outcomes. If a coach throws athletes into an activity with no mental preparation, they will waste time just figuring out what they’re supposed to do.

8:45 … When we over-do an activity, we will see a decline in performance over time. The phenomenon of “reminiscence” is when we see a return to a normal level of performance when returning to it after a period of rest. Fatigue certainly is a factor, but people can improve upon previous ‘best’ after re-starting the task later. This is common among rugby kickers who do well for the first few, dip in quality even after just a few, but then return to kicking well after doing another task in between. (Dave Alred seems to only let his kickers and golfers do just a few in a row before they have to do something else, and then return to a short set of shots, etc. etc.). So why do we improve?

Prof. Gray: “When we start with a different set of initial conditions, it encourages a performer to take a different route through perceptual motor space to find the appropriate movement solution. When we keep the conditions the same, the performer will settle at a locally optimal solution that it may be difficult to get out of.”  (11:39)

11:58 … This is why athlete-centred coaching is so effective. We consider each as a unique individual with specific needs and that relishes a new challenge. It’s breathing air into a fire to stoke the flames rather than adding yet another log onto one that’s down to just coals. It may keep going at the same rate doing so, but it’ll never grow without stirring it up and allowing it to breathe.

I think it’s important to consider this when warming up for a training session. Is doing the same old thing really sparking athletes for the challenges and learning to come? Without a doubt, it’s important for athletes to get loose and get the blood flowing, but this can be done in countless different ways. I give credit to the last team I coached on this: they were okay with spending 10 minutes at the start of every session doing some kind of fun game – even kids games! – that had them moving in many directions at a high tempo. I can’t think that anyone ever pulled a muscle and it really sold me that the traditional dynamic warm-up wasn’t completely necessary.

This podcast also highlighted how a varied approach better prepares the brain for optimal learning.



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