Global Performance Summit review

As the Global Performance Summit comes to a close I thought I would review the key learning points I've taken away from the 13 sessions presented. As the name of the summit suggests, each session is focussed on different aspects of performance enhancement that we might not normally give as much attention to. 

There were many topics discussed during the Global Performance Summit but the ones that resonated most with me are outlined below. Each of which I've tried to relate back to my clinical practice and to think about how I can apply and integrate this information in what I do from day to day. 

Breathing during movement

I'm not sure at what point we started to go wrong with breathing, but there certainly is a big push for coaches, trainers and therapists to ensure that normal breathing mechanics are integrated into different stages on training. Breathing is a concept that intrigues me. We are all born able to breathe without the need of conscious control. Our body has this amazing ability to monitor our levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide and moderate our breathing rate and depth to ensure that these levels stay within the optimal range for body functioning. So I'm always curious when I see people training and moving with altered breathing patterns, as to why they lost that control? 

Is the movement to complicated? Are they training beyond their physical capabilities? Are they focussing on the wrong aspects of movement? Either way, there was a strong consensus from many of the presenters that breathing is vital to performance optimisation and needs to be integrated into training regimes to allow clients to get the most from their exercise. 

Quinn Heron presented an entire session on breathing and this is worth listening to if you're not sure where to start with your clients and retraining their breathing mechanics. 

Relating this back to my clinical practice - it is common to see people with low back pain breathing apically through movement and is often correlated with splinting parts of their body and trunk. Perhaps it is learnt? Perhaps it is as a means of protections? Either way, we often spend time initially restoring normal breathing mechanics. When I'm teaching Pilates, I know that if my client can't breathe during the exercise, it's too hard. Breathing is normal. Breathing is essential to living. If you can't breathe and move, you're not doing it well and adjustments need to be made. 

What I enjoyed about Quinn's session was the discussion of positions to encourage normal breathing in lying, in 4PK and then integrating this into training and lifting. Coming from a stronger Pilates background and personally practicing Yoga, I am always being reminded about the importance of breath and how it provides us with move balance and strength as we access deeper poses or more challenging positions. Transitioning this focus on breathing into a lifting/strength training environment may come with some greater challenges but Quinn does a great job of addressing those concerns. 

Implementing carrying training into your program

In Session 2, Dan John spoke about his experience and background with carrying training. I really enjoyed listening to his session and learning more about carrying techniques. While his background comes more from training Navy Seals, NFL players and elite athletes, I could easily see how translatable these concepts are to Physical Therapy. How often do we have to retain lifting and carrying techniques for those suffering from low back pain? Having gone through Physio training I know that this is a big aspect of rehabilitation that can't be overlooked. What Dan's session triggered me to think about is how much this concept could be applied to Women's Health. 

Many people would agree that carrying a capsule, a wriggling toddler and lifting prams in and out of cars is a sure way to strain your back, SIJ, shoulder or even neck. I am often trouble shooting with clients ways to get around these awkward and heavy tasks.  After listening to Dan John discuss carrying training I am inspired to read more about lifting and carrying techniques and apply these principles to train the mothers I work with to be more effective carriers. 

Strength training throughout life

Scott Iardella spoke about his journey with strength training and transition into the use of kettlebells. What was great about Scott's session was the initial reinforcement of how important strength training is, for all ages. As Scott shared his experience it reminded me of how valuable regular strength training is for improving your health, your immunity, your balance, reducing your risk of falls and simply the enjoyment you can get from life. 

It reminded me of the elder people I train with, and one in particular is 85 years old who I currently work with very week focussing on his mobility, balance and strength. I'm not the only person he sees. In fact this gentleman trains 6 days a week and guess what... he can perform reformer Pilates exercises with heavier loads than me - from practice and repetition and continuity it training. What an amazing representation on the long term benefits of regular strength training. 

Another example of when I truely appreciated the role of strength training in maintaining health was when I worked in the Infectious Disease (ID) Unit at the Alfred Hospital in Melbourne. Three days a week we conducted strengthening classes with the patients from the ID unit, many of whom had HIV and strength training was a very important aspect of their management, to keep their immune systems high and prevent the onset of opportunistic-infections. It was the first time in my career that I could really appreciate how much strength training improves ones health. 

Another aspect of Scott's session I enjoyed was understanding the levels of strength: un-strength, threshold strength, foundational strength, aggressive strength and elite level strength. As a Physical Therapist I live in the realm of beginning with people in the 'un-strength' phase and progressing them to foundational level strength. These levels of strength are another area I will now review and try learn more about with the hope of understanding how strength training changes between each level. 

Focussing on Sleep hygiene

Sleep - oh I love this topic. I took a sleep neurobiology course online last year and learnt so much about the importance of sleep. I'm really glad this was a topic included in the Summit. I've previously written 4 blogs on the importance of sleep and how it relates to pain management, and I really enjoyed listening to Dr Kirk Parsley discuss the relationship between sleep and performance. 

A few key points that Dr Parsley made:

  • You can't completely make up your sleep deficiencies successfully over the weekend. 
  • Sleep deprivation reduces cognitive performance and has the potential to alter your metabolism to a pre-diabetic level. 
  • Try to listen to your biological clock (circadian rhythm) and train when your body is awake.
  • If you are going to train early in the morning: go to bed as early as you can and try incorporate napping into the day.
  • Even if you get 8 hours sleep, if you wake up at 4am you are still working outside the natural circadian rhythm and you therefore will need more sleep during the day (with the optimal nap length being 90 minutes). 
  • Especially as a trainer who will be working with clients early in the morning and then later in the evenings, napping during the day is going to help reduce the risk of becoming sleep deprived. 
  • Remember that physical performance, cognitive ability and executive functioning are all affected by sleep and try to work with the natural circadian rhythm of the body.  

There were other sessions presented during the summit, some of which related more to strength gains, maximising training through eccentric training, blood flow restriction training, ensuring dynamic warm up are appropriately implemented and even just considering if mobility or control of mobility is what our clients need. 

Each speaker presented a different topic and justified their training principle with dosages and evidence from clinically studies. Each lecture discussed a new aspect of performance enhancement and drew attention to areas that we might not be talking enough about. None of them are about the technique of lifting or giving guidelines/routines for a training program and this was amazing. Every lecture was a thought-provoking process asking the listener to actively engage in their topic and question if these aspects of training they could be built into their coaching/engagement with athletes.

As a therapist and a trainer I was encouraged to come back to the fundamentals of training, always have a goal list and intention for training, and stay focussed on smarter training to get the best performance improvements for my clients. Thanks Zach & Chris for putting on this event and providing me with so many thought-stimulating sessions over the past week.