Nathan Miller, Sports Science Support, explains how access to the facilities is not exclusive to elite athletes.
Q: Can you tell us a little about your role at St. George’s Park?
NM: I am Sports Science Support here at St. George’s Park, which means my role is looking into the physiological tracking of our elite athletes and of our clients.
I provide means of physical testing to monitor the effectiveness of our training and rehabilitation programmes for our injured clients. I am the first point of call for all our athletes.
Q: What is it that separates St. George’s Park from other sports performance and rehabilitation facilities?
NM: We aim to be a world class rehabilitation and sports performance facility within the next few years. I would encourage people to come here because of the modern facilities and modern technologies we do have.
We take a very holistic approach to increasing sports performance, and also daily life performance. We take every possible consideration and parameter into account.
We feel our health assessment is unique in that it offers a real holistic approach not only to exercise performance but also daily life performance.
Q: How has the Rugby Union England team utilised the facilities this week?
NM: They used our strength and conditioning facilities. Rugby athletes are very educated in their approach to sports science and strength and conditioning, so they spent a lot of their time in our gym as well as our rehabilitation gym.
We have also done some work with them down in the hydrotherapy area. We have our underwater treadmill which reduces the physical load our bodies go through during exercise while increasing cardiovascular load.
One of the injured players was running on the treadmill. We were ensuring that he wasn’t in pain but that he was still able to get his heart rate up specific to the training session he may have taken out on the pitch if he was free from injury.
Q: Can you give us an insight into some of the equipment you use with clients?
NM: We have our Alter G Anti-Gravity treadmill, which was originally designed by NASA and is the top of the range treadmill designed by Alter G.
The purpose of it is to reduce the physical load that goes through your body when you exercise, but you can still maintain high cardiovascular load.
It works by fitting a tight pair of shorts on and zipping yourself in around the waist and the pressure increases below the waist.
The treadmill allows the athlete to exercise with the physical load of just 20 per cent of their body weight, while still ensuring that they can run and exercise at really high cardiovascular loads.
Another bit of kit we have is our altitude chamber. Hypoxic training works by training in an environment where the oxygen is decreased.
Our particular chamber goes down to 9-10% oxygen. We breathe 21% oxygen at sea level so it goes up to around the equivalent of 5-6,000 metres, which is about Kilimanjaro level.
We use it in respect that your heart rate is going to be 5-10% higher in there because your body is trying to pump your blood with the reduced amount of oxygen and is working harder to do that.
We use it to maintain high cardiovascular load but reduce the physical load on our joints. We can get a treadmill in there and work the athlete hard without working their body physically.
Q: Is the work you do available only for elite athletes?
NM: My job role doesn’t just entail elite athletes and footballers. We have packages that look at corporate performance and health assessments, but we also have packages for schools.
And we also have amateur athletes that come in and use our performance and fitness analysis package.
Our two-hour package involves us running lots of tests which we then relate to injury, their daily performance in work and life and how we can increase their exercise capacity to produce at the highest level.
Q: Can you explain more about the work you do with schools?
NM: We have what’s called our Perform Schools Experience where school staff are encouraged to bring their students to the centre.
We invite them down and take them on a tour of the facility before giving them two and half hours’ worth of dynamic learning modules where we relate what they have learned in the classroom to how we practice it in a sports science setting.
There is a chance for them to ask any questions about our facility as well as our career paths. It is a great way of encouraging students to follow a path into sport.
Q: Are the packages provided for both the corporate and private sectors one-off experiences, or can clients arrange for regular sports science assistance?
NM: Both really. For corporate groups we offer team building experiences where they learn a bit more about their body, how they feel about themselves, and their perception of their lifestyle.
We also give them ideas about their movement, balance, aerobic capacity and body composition.
We also do a full health screen assessment where we can monitor someone over a one or two year period.