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Are training camp loads appropriate for our Aussie dragon boat paddlers?


Today the Journal of Australian Strength and Conditioning published my case study on rapid changes in training load during camps. Training load motioning is part of daily training for all of my S&C clients, and the two who participated in the study were selected for the Australian dragon boat team. I calculate training load by using the same methods as many other coaches, Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale multiplied by training session time.

Much like other amateur sports, the dragon boat athletes aren't on scholarships and can't draw an income from their sport, therefore they typically train 1-2 times/day around their work. The two athletes completed approximately 11 training sessions each, per week. Australian team camps typically contain 3 sessions/day and are intense because of the high quality of the paddlers attending. Due to the increase in intensity and number of sessions, there is a subsequent increase in training load for the athletes attending these camps.

There is mounting evidence that rapid shifts in training load put athletes at increased risk of adverse health problems. These health problems can be carried throughout the competitive season and cause athletes to under-perform. This can have large impacts on the team, who in worst case, end up hauling the injured/ill paddler down the racecourse, and best case, the paddler sits out on the sidelines.

Adding to the problem is the common misconception that athletes need to reduce their training to 'enhance recovery' before a camp. In fact this makes the problem worse by creating a larger shift in training load. In the study, we maintained training as normal leading into the camp. Despite this maintenance, there was still a rapid shift in load and one paddler sustained an injury at the camp that they continue to carry to this day.

So to sum up, the problems are:

- Dragon boat athletes are not paid professionals, therefore they have to train around work.

- Training is often 2 times per day.

- Australian team camp sessions are more intense and typically are 3 times per day.

- This creates a rapid shift in training load and puts paddlers at increased injury/illness risk.

- Even when maintaining their training schedule leading into such a camp, there is still a shift in load.

Considering that injury and illness have large ramifications to performance, it is worth discussing how rapid shifts in load can be avoided. As discussed in the Australian Institute of Sport white paper on training loads to minimize large week-week fluctuations, these things can be done by the camp organizsrs, athletes and coaches.

1. Do more before the camp.

2. Do less during the camp.

3. A combination of both 1 and 2.

1. Do more before the camp.

This may not be possible due to the workloads of athletes. It would likely mean lunch time training sessions alongside morning and evening sessions for at least 2-3 weeks prior to the camp.

2. Do less during the camp.

This may not be optimal if the coaching team needs a certain intensity or number of sessions in order for paddlers to get the most out of the camp.

3. A combination of both 1 and 2.

This may be possible. Prior to camp, athletes could add short lunchtime sessions for 1-2 weeks, alongside their normal morning and evening training. Coaches/organisers could determine clear camp goals, and build a program that addresses the goals yet includes lighter/shorter sessions and a reduction in the total number of sessions.

I hope that this post stimulates some discussion around training load and camps. If we can structure our training to minimise injury/illness risk, we can train harder for longer without interruption.

>> If you are an athlete, I encourage you to get your coaches views on how to manage rapid shifts.

>> If you are a coach/camp organiser I encourage you to spend some time honing in on the intent of your camps, so that you can achieve your goals while simultaneously reducing the injury/illness risk to your athletes.

Note: Underlined text are linked references.

#dragonboat #racing #paddling #performance #AustralianInstituteofSport #Australianathletes #AIS

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