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NY Giants taking a cue from endurance sports to improve offseason training

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NY Giants taking a cue from endurance sports to improve offseason training

Post  Big_Pete on Sun Feb 21, 2010 6:59 am

from http://www.nj.com/giants/index.ssf/2010/02/ny_giants_taking_a_cue_from_en.html

NY Giants taking a cue from endurance sports to improve offseason training
By Jenny Vrentas/The Star-Ledger
February 20, 2010, 10:00AM

Friday morning at the Giants’ practice complex, the weight room was filled with offensive linemen, defensive linemen, running back Brandon Jacobs -- and, in quite the physical contrast, 50 triathletes and marathon runners.

While these elite-level endurance athletes borrowed the space for their preseason training camp -- they are members of the Timex Multisport Team, and the watch brand also owns the naming rights to the Giants’ headquarters -- the Giants recognized the opportunity to borrow training concepts from endurance sports and apply them to football.

Their first step this spring? Monitoring heart rate, a rare tactic in team sports but a staple for distance racers. When the Giants’ offseason program begins March 15, they’ll start doing so with a test group of 15 players -- one way in which the team is looking to improve how it trains.

“It’s a scientific approach, and I’ve looked through the literature, and this is something that has not been done before with a football team,” Giants vice president of medical services Ronnie Barnes said Friday. “It’s not a new concept -- they’ve been doing that for years in track and field and in running. But it’s not something that teams, because of the numbers and volume, thought they could do.”

The Giants’ 15-year deal with Timex gives them access to the company's individual digital heart rate systems. But Barnes’ initiative, and curiosity about new techniques to improve player fitness and safety, is behind the project.

Since heart rate is a measure of fitness level, Barnes’ plan is to track it in the sample of players — among the tentative guinea pigs are center Shaun O’Hara, tight end Kevin Boss, defensive tackle Chris Canty and cornerback Aaron Ross — from start to finish of the offseason program.

This approach will give the Giants a more objective idea of how much their players’ fitness improves during offseason training, by comparing their resting heart rates and recovery times in March and in June. The training and strength and conditioning staffs can also track how heart rate changes during different exercises — running outside, running on turf, bench pressing — to understand better how the body is exerted.

And, the team can also make sure its players don’t slack during the break between mini-camp and training camp. The selected players — and possibly the entire roster — will be sent home with heart-rate systems to track how much they work out. The data from the chest monitor is stored in the partner watch and uploaded to a computer with a memory stick.

“We’re going to gather all of this data to try to get a sense of what really happens,” Barnes said. “We already know that as you train and get in better shape with respect to year-round conditioning, your heart rate goes down. But we haven’t ever really been able to look at it, because we haven’t done it.”

This is a small first step for the Giants, who need to get a better idea of how the data can help them and if the players and staff can keep up with this added responsibility. But Barnes sees the potential for this approach to play a role in player safety, too.

One idea is to monitor heart rate during training-camp practices -- particularly with bigger players or those with a history of heat exhaustion -- to see how two-a-days in the August heat stress the cardiovascular system.

This might also be a way to help athletes avoid overtraining, because if they are not taking enough rest between workouts, that may show up in a climbing resting heart rate. If a player gets hurt, the staff could look back at his chart to quantify how much he had been working out, and determine if overtraining may have contributed to the injury.

“Those are our intentions, and I think they’re noble intentions,” Barnes said. “Because every activity is noted. We’ll be able to look at what was happening to their heart rate, and we’ll actually be able to see the vast accumulation of activities that they’ve done.”

These concepts, particularly looking at heart rate to avoid overtraining, are already vital to triathletes and marathoners. Of course, there are obvious differences between long-distance racing, an aerobic sport, and football, an anaerobic sport played in brief spurts of intense activity.

But this weekend, the Giants’ aim was to identify the things that could be cross-pollinated. Barnes compared notes with one pro triathlete on stress fractures — which Giants running back Ahmad Bradshaw sustained in each foot last year — and is now looking into the use of calcium supplements for that kind of injury.

The Giants are always looking for new ways to modify their physical preparation, but with 20 players undergoing surgery this offseason, Barnes said, there was more of a reason to self-examine.

“Anytime you have a spike in your injury curve, you look at everything you’re doing with respect to training,” Barnes said. “Anything from strengthening activities that might strengthen ankles, if you have a lot of ankle sprains, to looking at whether or not you’re overtraining.”

Barnes said the Giants will also rely more on Functional Movement Screens -- which grade a player’s movement patterns and identify asymmetries and weaknesses in his body -- to recognize injuries for which certain players are predisposed. Nutrition and using underwater treadmills for players with chronic conditions have been part of injury prevention, too.

There may be no immediate impact from collecting the heart-rate data this spring, but the idea is for this to be one step in optimizing player fitness and safety down the road.

“When I first found out about it, I thought it was pretty unique,” O’Hara said. “We do physicals once a year, but to monitor your heart during training and monitor your body, I think this is just the first step in it. I really think in 5 to 10 years, they will be able to monitor every athlete during any workout at any point in time, and that will be the watermark around the league.”
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Re: NY Giants taking a cue from endurance sports to improve offseason training

Post  Big_Pete on Sun Feb 21, 2010 7:09 am

I think this is a very good idea.

There are alot of tangible benefits to excellent aerobic fitness.

I would actually like to see the medical staff look at the strength and conditioning that goes into sports such as Rubgy Union and Rugby League; both are physical sports played for two continuous 40 minute halves. I think there is alot of elements that could be added to the offseason program.

I have seen a couple of rugby union and league players playing american football and their fitness is exceptional (even compared to the former college players we had here)
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Re: NY Giants taking a cue from endurance sports to improve offseason training

Post  56 Crazed Dogs on Mon Feb 22, 2010 8:27 am

This is a good idea.

I've been up to training camp, and some years in Albany it gets very hot and humid on some days. This hopefuly will benefit the players.
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