‘The Appliance of Science’ an interview with Colin Griffin

Colin Griffin Run Lab SSCIf you’re serious about training and competition, then at some point you’re sure to have asked yourself ‘Am I doing this right?’

We all follow general principles; don’t over-train, get plenty of rest, eat well, stay properly hydrated – but eventually we reach a point where something more tailored to us as individuals is needed, and the value of objective, science-based approach.

At UPMC Sports Surgery Clinic’s Run Lab, Strength and Conditioning Coach Colin Griffin explains the role of their services in improving performance and reaching goals.

Griffin, who represented Ireland as a 50km race walker in two Olympics and has coached other athletes to that level, and has recently run a marathon in 2.29.15, is an accredited strength and conditioning coach who is leading Run Lab’s superbly-appointed service in Gulliver’s Retail Park in Santry, north Dublin.

“Endurance performance is multi-factorial and while aerobic endurance is very important, there are other trainable variables that can contribute to further performance improvements or at least more consistent training. The Run Lab service provides comprehensive profiling of the athlete and can identify areas of limitation for people who are ambitious to improve their performance”

The aim is to optimise performance in a real-world setting, so when we recommend areas of training on which to focus, we’re taking into account the lifestyle factors which may make some changes difficult; for instance the type of work you do, the hours you keep, your access to facilities and so on. These factors influence how your body can recover and adapt to training.

This isn’t a once-off process; ideally, we like to follow-up after, say, 8-10 weeks to review progress and if necessary make changes to our recommendations. It is a consultation service and we also welcome interaction with the athlete’s coach. Essentially, we’re offering ongoing support for athlete and coach.

There’s also the injury-prevention aspect to our service; by talking to the athlete about their injury history and training profile, in combination with physiological tests, we can identify any areas of weakness or imbalance that could either explain past injuries or help forestall future problems.

There is a greater need to train smarter; the ‘traditional’ approach to endurance running emphasises mileage, with 100 miles per week the gold standard. However, athletes can reach a ceiling where increasing mileage further may not yield any further benefits and training needs to be more creative. For some athletes, they may not be able to tolerate that mileage without breaking down regularly. With Run Lab, we can help identify more efficient and effective methods to optimise endurance by training at the right intensities together with developing power and elasticity to complement their running.

We use a wide range of technology, including force plates and 3D motion analysis. The 2-hour consultation begins with a strength and conditioning coach who will discuss your training background and performance goals. You will be measured for height and weight. Then you will have your ankle and hip mobility assessed, as well as your balance during a single leg squat.

After a brief warm-up, you will perform a series of jumping and hopping tests on the force plate. The results of these tests will tell us whether you need to develop more strength or power, and your tendons’ ability to absorb and return elastic energy – an important determinant of running economy and performance.

We perform a gait assessment using video analysis, looking at posture, how you strike the ground and how you absorb impact, noting any asymmetries between left and right side. We can then advise if you would benefit from making some changes to your running technique to improve performance or reduce your risk of injury.

A treadmill test then measures the lactate threshold, running economy; indicators of aerobic efficiency. We will then be able to advise you on what zones you should train at for long runs and interval training. The athlete receives a dashboard report which they can discuss with their coach to help them devise a more effective training programme.

For more information  or to book an appointment at SSC’s Run Lab service please contact 01 526 2040

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