Thursday, 26 March 2015

Touch, Pause and Engage*: What you might expect at the start of an applied sports science interview.

Previous blogs in this series
1. Introduction
2. Making an impressive impression


"A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step."

                                                                        Lao Tzu

The interviewing begins and the selectors welcome you. There are reams of work written on polite small-talk (“Where are you based?” etc), handshaking (research says avoid limp handshakes – otherwise you may as well slap a 4 week old leaf of Cos lettuce in their grasp and wave it about), smiling (no ‘Gordon Browns’), making eye contact (no staring contests) or sitting only when directed. Once again there is the chance to impair the first impression, with A or B from the last blog, so your best bet is to be true to yourself** and concentrate on being as mindful as possible about the people you are meeting. You should probably be thinking, “Well it’s very nice to meet you at last”, “I feel fortunate to be here”, and hey presto, your body language and facial expression might just show that too.  Equally, if your thoughts are running away from you, “OOSH MAMA! SIZZLING HOT SEAT TIME” or “You’re shorter than I thought”, you will no doubt be conveying these thoughts too!

Now you are sitting comfortably, take a moment to gather yourself and take some steady breaths. The interviewers should do some introductions, outline the mechanics of the interview, some background to the role and organisation, and subsequent selection and notification. For the sit-down panel interview, interviewers tend to use three starting tactics at this point***. One option is to launch into straight interrogative interview questions, but this is slightly unusual these days. As an interviewer, the job should be to get the best out of the candidates, if they go on the attack, the candidate could feel hijacked and this will close down the possibility of a fair showing - so it is not in the interviewers interest. 



The second option is to use a softer start, a warmer welcoming question such as, “Please could you give us a brief overview of your journey in sport science and what has led you here today?”. This type of question is an ideal opportunity to give an enthusiastic summary of your accomplishments, your applied experiences, mention some of the guiding mentors, culminating in why these aspects of your development ideally place you for the job in hand. You should be well rehearsed and polished for this type of question and take no more than 2 minutes to do so.  If you can’t talk clearly and succinctly about yourself, your experiences or your achievements, it leaves little hope for nuanced, philosophical, detailed or technical questions later on.

A common third option is for you to do a presentation. This once again is an ideal opening for you to show your communication skills. You'll almost certainly receive a title to present to and normally set a time limit. If you want to annoy the interviewers feel free to put the title on the first slide and then talk about something else instead. If you want to annoy them further take your time limit and feel free to add 15-20 mins on top! Keep to the topic and keep to time. 

For example,

“Outline a case-study where you have worked in a multi-disciplinary team to improve performance (10 mins)”, 

I would recommend (underlined = it says it in the title!); 1 slide introduction, 1 outlining the case and the people involved, 1 stating the goals, 1 on the multi-disciplinary team interaction and duties, 1 on your support work area, 1 on performance outcomes and 1 wrapping up. So using this formula (please just take the broad principles rather than copying it) 7 slides, allowing a little time for you to expand the main points.





Some other typical titles for your delectation (focus areas underlined);

·      Present your strategy for leading <<insert discipline>> support work for <<insert sport here>>.

·      Describe the demands of <<insert sport here>> and discuss the priorities for support as <<insert discipline>> practitioner.

·     Describe a support case study in which you have worked, outlining the scientific and emotional elements that made a difference to the athlete and coach.


Stick to the task, stick to time and present with personality and impact.  Interviewers will typically ask at least one or two questions, maybe even 20 minutes worth – it is their choice. Presentation (literally and your first impressions) over, time to take a seat, normally interview questions will now follow. 

More next week on my no. 1 interview question.

* touch (handshake), pause (gather yourself), engage (ebb and flow or interview questions), just in case you thought it was some  interview ritual that you hadn't heard of.
**self awareness in high performance sport, hmm, now there's a blog, waiting to happen, leave it with me...
*** More on group interviews and expecting the unexpected another time.

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Making an impressive impression

This blog is part of a series about interviewing for applied sport science, if you missed last week's intro, here it is.

"We’re generally overconfident in our opinions and our impressions and judgments."
Daniel Kahneman


Woah there introductory blog, you give the impression that we are done and dusted with the preamble and we are about to dive into the interview complete with tables, pre-set up projectors, suits, formal wear and a fresh glass of water. No, no, no – back it up a bit, we’ve got a bit of work to do yet. Let’s assume then that the shortlisters have moved you from the mass of applicants to the long list to the short list. The next step will be ‘the call’, “Hello, is that Stephane Ingleham (my Bavarian alias)? Hello, I am calling from the World Institute of Sport, Health, Fitness, Understanding and Life (WISHFUL), and we would like to interview for the post of Performance Optimisation Officer*”. Your heart skips a merry beat, you’re in, they were impressed by your application, they want to see you in the flesh. The majority of the time, candidates will effusively confirm to the affirmative and offer a polite “thank you for calling”, type sign off (bye, bye-bye, love you, bye). Rather bafflingly a good proportion of people will make things difficult and generally being cantankerous about the whole thing. I remember one youngling asking if we could hold the interviews a bit closer to their home (chaff of the crusty husk variety). If the arrangements are tricky then I would suggest negotiating politely and delicately. 

On-the day candidates then fall into largely 3 categories;

A) The super-heroes, turn up in a whirlwind of vocal projection, legs astride, hands on hips, head cocked up to the side, (see, Lord Flashheart). The words “I am here for my interview”, sound like “I am here to save your organization” (for which a trapdoor exit would be best). Such types might also crush your phalanges with a powergrip takedown handshake, or might boom their way through the interview, but they might also behave themselves in the interview room too.



B) The mice scurry in, squeak and leave. Sometimes you notice them, sometimes you don’t. An overly nervy or timid opening can unfortunately be just plain forgettable. High performance sport requires you to have something about you, some 'enter the room presence' – and in that first impression, overly meek will put a question mark over your competency to develop rapport.



(The above two categories could be construed as extraversion and introversion, respectively, and at least superficially I have painted a picture of extreme ends of the spectrum – the reality is that all types can flourish in high performance sport.)

C) The tightrope walkers are with whom the wheat lies. As a support practitioner, the key relationships are with a coach, athlete and other practitioners in a multi-disciplinary team. Therefore you have to be able to project yourself delicately along these various tightropes; teamworker but independent, inter-personal but intra-personal, humble but assertive, deferential but assured, patient but persistent; modest but motivated, tolerant but critical, open-minded but discerning. If you can balance these factors and more then you will be tightrope walking to success. The reality is though you will need to develop this versatility through your adaptability, through trial and error, effort and reflection loops of matured but fast-tracked learning.



I would reckon, 8 out of 10 times, the admin' staff who do the 30 second meet and greet, make the same selection as the interviewers who’ve spent 8+ hours slogging through interviews. It appears the first impression is cast in milliseconds, being highly related to eventual selection and later management, (known as confirmatory bias). So, wheat, if you are thinking about playing hard-ball for a different interview time, or if you had previously dismissed the reception staff as unimportant, you are stepping aboard the 10m platform to perform a Tom Daley-esque tumble into the chaff bucket. First impressions matter!


Read on for part 3, on kicking the interview off...

*This was a real suggestion, until they worked out the acronym!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

Choosing to be wheat or chaff: A view from interviewing in applied sport science


"The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short." 

                                                                             Abraham Maslow



If you put ‘job interview’ into Google – it will return a google number of articles about some principles or methods of how to ace it. Despite this my experience of upwards of 500 interviews of  sports scientists tells me that either a) an infinitesimally small number read these; b) they read them but ignore them, because they are for prudes and surely in this day and age of freedom and democracy, ad libbing freestyle is superior, whilst preparation, organization of thought and clarity of communication is abhorred; c) they didn’t really want the job anyway, they just really fancied a 9 hour round trip from the outer reaches of the UK and that stuttering, fumbling and sighing through a somewhat predictable set of questions is pleasurable.

The inquisition of an interview is not generally accepted as the best way to assess the commitment of employment and investment of salary and time, tending to feel staged and stilted, where the to-and-fro question-answer session doesn’t really reach too far beyond the nervous veneer. For leaders, panel interviews do indeed work well, but for practitioners, I personally like a group task because they quickly get behind the mask. They tend to ply and test the need for diplomacy, negotiation, tact, co-coaching, support, magnanimity and listening skills with equal importance to knowledge, logic, discipline specific understanding, explanatory powers and ability to press a point. However, the classic interview does tend to do a decent job of cutting the wheat from the chaff. But this blog (and the few that will shortly follow) is not for the chaff, it is for the wheat that should know better, the wheat that should have done their homework, the wheat that should have taken or sought some more vocational advice at university, the wheat that should have been bolder and asked a mentor figure the honest, open questions of “how do you interview?”, and “how can I do well in an interview”. This blog is for the wheat that just fell into the chaff bucket. Wheat that got beat by better wheat, this is also for you, and wheat that was golden, you might find this useful too – please read this, at worst you still have options b & c above.

I’ll run a series of blogs describing what I (and it is a personal view, and I sure ain’t perfect, no siree) consider as the essential components. By the way, reading this blog is not going to get the job, even if you follow it step by step, you still have to have the experience to back it up (more on that later), but it might reduce the probability of you getting lost, failing to answer the question, or being forgettable. Oh and you also need to be yourself, no-one wants a formulaic performance. 

Pre-interview training and the taper

·      Research the company you want to work for, look at their website, read their publications, see how they feature in the press.

·      Find out about the people who will be interviewing you. For a start they might have publications you can search in pubmed, often a biography that describes their career achievements or background. Obviously they might have other online activity or presence – this is a bit of grey area and might feel like cheeky peeking. Linkedin, twitter, etc, though are public profiles (at which point I am obliged to point out that my views are my own and not that of anyone I have ever worked for, or have ever known, or are related to, or have been near or have thought of),  and so they are probably fair game.

·      Give your CV and covering letter some serious work. No mistakes, nothing more than 5 pages (many say no more 2), it must include your grades, it must include your chosen referees. Two features must be central to your paperwork and must be upfront enough to grab the shortlisters attention within 10 seconds (there are plenty of statistics out there claiming that the average time spent reading a CV is less than milliseconds, and I would say that unless it grabs my attention in 30 seconds I will put it in the ‘no’ pile). First it must showcase your relevant experience. Second the letter must compel the interviewers to why you want and are ideally suited for, the job. If either of these are missing then you are relying on a heap of assumed knowledge and you should not expect to be enlisted for the interview.

·      Think about some potential interview questions (I will be giving you plenty of my best ones in the weeks ahead). Write the questions out and verbalise or write some answers down.

·      Get some rest the night before (I thought I should say it, but in reality don’t expect a good night’s sleep if you truly care about the opportunity – just accept that, more than likely, everyone will be in the same boat). Triple check your travel arrangements. Eat brekkie with a serviette in your collar; check your last minute nose blow hasn’t left a residue on your lip; do any zips up that need to be zipped; tuck your shirt/blouse in – if it should be tucked in (I have encountered all of the above and more, but lets not lower the tone).


Now I think you are ready to meet your inquisitors. Breathe in, shoulders back, apply a little saliva along the length of each eyebrow (unless they are drawn on, that could leave you smudingly surprised) - read on for Part 2. Making an impressive impression

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

2012 Olympic and Paralympic reflections part 2/2

In the last blog, I reminisced about my highlights of the Olympic and Paralympic golden summer of sport. They were all a little predictable and almost over familiar recollections. Here I want to reflect upon the rise of Team GB!

Once we got past the superb Glover/Stanning duck breaking 1st Wednesday (honour to be there - great tickets - thanks @Olympianben!), the most profound memory will be the unprecedented torrent of medals that followed. It was a delight that there was no sense of complacency or increasing indifference in welcoming each one onto the medal table. There was a fabulous excitement that built in the lead up to each one and how everything had to stop to witness every moment. The real difficulty was in keeping up with each and every one of the 65 Olympic and 120 Paralympic medallions, and of course that includes each of the near misses, the 4ths and 5th etc.

Team GB & Women's rowing break their duck

We have a simple formula in the English Institute of Sport (@eis2win) for increasing the number of gold medals won by Team GB, well actually it is just from the physiology team across NGBs and home country sports institutes. In fact it is so effective that I am reluctant to reveal it  such is the strength of association between this intervention and gold medal return. Well here goes! (Actually before I reveal all, I should tell you that the data are real, you can easily check the gold medal tallies from previous games, you will have to take my word for it, having worked at the BOA during the post-Atlanta period to post-Athens and the checked with the admin staff for Beijing!)

The answer to getting more golds - send more physiologists to work at the Olympics (holding camp, outside or in the village)! As you can see the relationship between the two (cause and effect, no doubt) is the purest of the pure, cleanest of the clean, tightest of the tight associations between the two. Unequivocal, I am sure you agree. Just send more and the bling rolls in. 



Do bear in mind that even if you don't want a gold medal you still have to send 3 and a half physiologists, equally if you want all 302 golds we need a rally to arms for an almighty 122 physiologists to attend the games (I am not sure actually whether they need to do any work, perhaps just being there is effective). Beyond the fact that I might have been a teensy bit selective in deciding who went was a physiologist and who went as a coach, (e.g. I officially went as a coach to Beijing, but I am claiming myself as a physiologist), the actual relationship would not be hugely weakened (so please do feel free to abuse this chart for any of your stats lessons or the like - much gaffawing will not doubt ensue - we have a right old laugh with our science japes don't we?). Of course, of course it is not sending the physiologists to a games that results in more gold medals, but what this does represent over time is a growth of the support system. You could rightly label the x axis, 'infrastructure' or 'investment' or 'experience'. Having seen the introduction of lottery money ushering the wave of athletes into full-time training, the birth of the institutes, the awarding of the home games and then ultimately the home games themselves, it has been a fast and relentless development of the system. We have had tears and tantrums as the system makes hard calls (often at the sake of peoples livelihoods) and the pressure of performing in the heat of the cauldron always makes some people go a bit doo-lally. But it would be fair to say that we now have a system that has matured with great experience, established strong relationships with sports and their coaches coupled with a know-how that is truly performance focused.

If I took a longitudinal view of the support system, in the history of the institutes (circa 10yrs), two disciplines have grown from a seedling to full bloom, they are strength and conditioning and performance analysis. The number of S&C coaches, that could mix it with the best coaches in the world's best coaches, 10 years ago in the UK was just a handful, but over the last two Olympic cycles we have seen the people and the potential unlocked from the conditioning teams. Creativity in movement patterns, critical thought about loading and ultimately the improvement of appropriate force generation has been vital in protecting and progressing our athletes performances. The latter (PA), born out of match analysis, has proved its worth through the evidential  recording and observations of performance that inform judgement rather than  mystical opinion and guesswork. I can't think of a sport that shouldn't have this as a bedrock of all support and coaching, and so it proved with our very own Stafford Murray leading a team of performance analysts at the games (there might be a correlation brewing...), providing instantaneous and holistic analysis across sports. 

Physiology has undergone its own transformation  from 'lab-testers' to 'response optimisers' (see previous top 10 blogs from the summer), but physiology support was established as an essential service from as early as the 1970's, whereas S&C and PA have blossomed more recently as performance drivers. So does the relationship between physiologists vs golds stack up, I hear you ask? Did we send the 15 physiologists that would be necessary to magic 29 golds? Er, no I reckon there were 10 in attendance, oh well never mind! Nevertheless, there was great satisfaction seeing some of the physiology team and the EIS as a whole getting some great recognition for their work with our Olympic and Paralympic medallists. So whilst the noble art of backroom support will remain an altruistic role,  there to help when things go wrong, there to innovate when the next edge is required, it was heartwarmingly nice but reassuring about its effectiveness, to see so many of the SPOTY interviewees give a thoroughly generous and gracious nod to the whole system of support.

London has left a lasting glow of euphoria on my soul, on support systems in the UK, on the Olympics and Paralympics that makes me wonder if it will ever get any better than this? Well maybe not for us here in blighty, but who wouldn't want to see the Olympics take a samba into the South Americas in 2016 or see how the wonderfully proud Japanese would represent themselves in 2020 (or Istanbul or Madrid for that matter, but my money is on Tokyo to be announced on 7th Sept 2013). The Olympics moves on, life-after-London is something we have planned for and to use it to stoke our ambition - to keep the flame alive after the cauldron has been extiguished. As Simon Barnes described we must return to the foothills once again and look upwards at the lofty zenith. This time we can climb armed with the knowledge and experience of having previously summited the highest peak.

Monday, 31 December 2012

2012 Olympic and Paralympic reflections part 1/2

In the immediate aftermath of the IOC announcement that it was to be "the city of London" that would host "the games of the 30th Olympiad", The Times journalist Simon Barnes wrote 'The Olympics are the pinnacle of sporting achievement and competition... all other sport lies in the foothills' (I paraphrase). There are of course many who would disagree. The fact that football stadia across the land fill with ardent supporters week after week, when viewed objectively does indeed dwarf the turnout of our summer of Olympic and Paralympic events. Yet somehow simple numbers do not represent the depth, meaning and majesty of the Olympic and Paralympic mountains.

From landfill to landmark

In very simple terms here's why; the zenith is only assailable every 4 years, therefore it is monumentally harder to achieve the summit. So victory is tumultuous compared to the weekly 'high' micro-doses. Also the vast pyramid of contestants underpinning the podium means that those stepping atop are truly abnormal in the population. In the nicest possible way they are the freaks of human performance!

In reality the London games were probably no more important globally than previous games, no more important to the British than the Beijing games were to the Chinese, no more significant than the Sydney games to the Australians. Yet they took the Olympic movement on in a way that was particularly apt for that moment in time. We are wrapped in a global economic mess, so the games could have annoyed if it were super-expensive. We (the Brits) have our own unique take on the world and life, that we were a bit unsure anyone would get, that was superbly summed up in a Sports Illustrated view of the London Olympics;

"Sydney: We're doing OK for a former penal colony, wouldn't you say? And we know how to have a good time, mates! Athens: We have a rich history, but remain vital and kind of relevant. Beijing: Behold our might! The theme in London was ... well, what exactly? We suspect you are familiar with our written word, from Shakespeare to Dickens to Rowling, our music from the Fab Four to the Coldplay? Or: We join you in gently mocking our quirks? Or: We lost the Empire but we still have our s$#% together?

I quite like the latter view.

I have a few highlights;

Firstly the BBC, from the very first few frames of the very start of the BBC coverage at about 7pm on 27th July, featured a statue with a beating heart and when zoomed in, showed one of the coronary arteries in the shape of the river Thames. I was only a few seconds in and already I was delirious with goosebumps from the fusion of the 'heart' and London - our city. The coverage throughout was just incredibly good. I will not moan about paying my license fee again. (I will come back to the BBC later).

The opening ceremony wasn't the embarrassment that many thought it would be, it wasn't even just passable. It was bloody good, whichever way you look at it or how cynical you get. Convincing the queen to agree to a bond sketch showed with straight audacity that yes we can 'gently mock our quirks'. The defining moment was of course the use of the next generation athletes to light the cauldron. What wonderful imagination that sparked the depth of forethought. Whoever came up with that idea - I salute you!

In terms of sport, my relief and elation for Jess Ennis and her coach Toni Minichello could not be surpassed. She is an extraordinary talent who reached a pinnacle at the right time. This was a very different support journey for me, having worked with the pair since 2005. We knew back then that 2012 was what it was all about for Jess and took a long hard look at what it would take to peak at that moment, being prepared to take less short-term gain for longer term benefit. This took great vision and trust from Toni, but with his critical and perceptive outlook that maximised the probabilities. You see, there is no textbook for heptathlon physiology and it took a number of leaps of faith to apply basics and some left-field ideas to not only the aerobic and anaerobic physiology development but more broadly to the whole system development, peaking, and optimising recovery in training and during the two day competition. 


There is always such excitement about entering an Olympic venue, even in East London!


A further highlight was the long-awaited achievements of Kath Grainger. I supported Kath up to her first medal in 2000, along with the formidable Batten sisters and the talented Gillian Lindsey. Back then a medal was a pleasant surprise having snuck the silver on the line. We knew something might be on the cards when I saw them in the Gold Coast holding camp and they had 'survived' an almighty training block courtesy of the relentless programme of Mike Spracklen. Nowadays, the rowing programme success is more sustained and ubiquitous thanks to the rigorous work of the current coaches and support staff. It was an overwhelming relief to see Kath and the whole women's programme finally achieve the success they so richly deserve.

The established superstars of Bolt, Felix (including the stunning 4x100m relay), Phelps did not  disappoint in their performances but also this time in their tussles with genuine rivals. But new and known stars rose to Olympic prominence in Missy Franklin, Alison Schmitt, Ye Shiwen, Ranomi Kromowidjojo (she should have got another medal for having the best name at the games), Alexandra Raisman, Epke Zonderland, David Rudisha took their chance. It is a fact that the BBC emphasised the attempts and victories of Team GB, but that these and other great successes of our international compatriots was featured so prominently is recognition of the embracing approach to broadcasting. Having been working at 4 previous Olympics, it is startling and frustrating at just how little of the widespread non-host nation, Olympic and Paralympic excellence gets shown from the host broadcaster. This could not be said of London, as you could delight in some juicy Cuban v Mongolian men's flyweight boxing match, or the Hungarian v Italy head-to-head match-ups in the sabre, or whatever took your fancy. As a sports fan you want to see the best not just the partisan view of the locals. I think the BBC achieved this.

Tunisia v Argentina in basketball preliminary - a cracking game

The Paralympics at last got the recognition, support and respect that it deserves and in its punctuation of the human spirit served up the drama of rivalries, controversies, head-to-head excitement that it has always had, but now it had the decibels to not only match but exceed the Olympic cheer. Albeit predictably, there is only one quote that affirms the growth that the Paralympics underwent in Stratford this summer and that is from the headline act of Oscar Pistorius, "There are a lot of people that are going to watch these Games around the world that are going to be forced in a way to see these Paralympics through the eyes of the people of the UK. And I think that is a great thing. There are a lot of people here that don't focus on the disability any more, they focus on the athletes' ability." Could the UK have offered a greater legacy for sport? I am not sure we could.

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Top 10 applications: No.1 - Power to the revolution

I am a runner. Well I used to run. Actually I still run, but only a couple of times per week. But I used to try to sprint. I wasn’t very good, but I had a nice time trying! Nevertheless running has been my predominant sport.
This is my way of declaring my lack of bias toward what follows. You should also know that this isn’t written to be flavour of the month, the number 1 was decided many months ago.
Britain has become a nation in love with cycling and a nation of cyclists. Cycle ownership has rocketed as has membership of British Cycling. This has not been a result of heavily discounted bicycles, the development of an extensive cycle network (though this is starting to help), nor the shift in tectonic plates flattening Britain’s gentle hills and making the UK more cycling friendly. It is consequence to the rise in our high performance cycling athletes, their success and their subsequent popularity. We saw similar surges in participation with a Linford inspired uptake of sprinting and a Redgrave inspired generation of oarspeople, but not nearly on the same scale as with cycling. However, the overwhelming success of our track and road cyclists has driven a large wedge into the British popular consciousness. Sir Chris Hoy with 3 gold medals in Beijing was the stand out from the Beijing games, further recognised as BBC sports personality of the year and a knighthood. Team GB’s cycling golds accounted for nearly half of the total Team GB haul, without them Team GB would have come 8th, in the medal table. Such was the dominance that UCI (Union Cycliste Internationale) initiated a number of rule changes in an attempt to prevent such a monopoly (you could say they were trying to help spread the love).


Athletes, coaches, directors and support staff in Beijing

Shortly following this was the irrepressible emergence of road performances with Mark Cavendish as a tour de force as the finest road sprinter to have ever lived (similar SPOTY achievement to boot) and now not only a Tour de France winner but 2nd place in Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome, respectively.
Fittingly for this Olympic led Top 10 series, we are in such a glut of cycling results that this article will no doubt be out of date in just a few days’ time with the Olympics about to burst open. The point remains that cycling is now a major sport in Britain, and Britain is not only a major force but unquestionably at this moment in time, it is the strongest cycling nation in the World.
The rise of cycling in the UK has been thoroughly articled elsewhere, but in brief you can attach success to the intoxicating combination of extraordinary talent (and for the naysayers that crow that track cycling is not as competitive as track athletics, I am sorry but 2500 W of instantaneous power is butt-kickingly elite), specialist scientific and medical support, world class facilities and diamond strong visionary leadership. Much has been made of the latter and clearly without such an unremittingly torpedo like focus on all things performance, cycling would not have been able to extract such value out of the athletes, at its disposal. Without the sports-specific analysts, therapists, nutritionists, aerodynamicists, physiologists (of course) etc the team would not have been so well supported in their pursuit of excellence. But in my humble opinion, the absence of one cog (literally) would have almost certainly greatly impeded progress.
My conversion (sounds spiritual) into an applied sports physiologist truly began when I began work with the rowing team. Under continual question of “Are you going to make me go faster”. I quickly threw a great many pieces of knowledge off my boat and clung to the life raft of a few nuggets of 'first principles' understanding that could keep me afloat. After the Sydney games and the haze of gold tinted spectacles had worn away (please, please, please do not claim “we did it with X and they won a medal - so it must work”.  Present the thinking and the evidence or be humble enough not to claim it), I made a visit to my one time mentor Peter Keen and the British Cycling physiologist at the time Andrea Wooles (@findingnorth and who is now back oat in Canada). In late November 2000, we met in a converted room at the very back of the Alsager campus of Manchester Metropolitan University. Some way into the pleasantries, that were coloured with statements of ‘humble surrounds’, I asked if they had a lab, “this is it” was the reply about essentially a converted student accommodation kitchen. Somewhat surprised, I couldn’t sense that this was the doorstep to a new world. So I asked if they had any wet chemistry or gas analysis kit, “none” was the response. “This is all the lab we need” and Pete reached up to a shelf and plopped on the table an SRM* (@SRMtraining) crank. The ensuing discussion about the validity of ‘physiological’ measures did more to rock my thoughts than anything before (except temporarily for 2 hours of my 4 year old life whilst watching Star Wars thinking it was a documentary) or since.



SRM (or equivalent) meters and cranks on bikes during on of the most iconic scenes from the last day of the 2012 Tour de France
There are those single issue fanatical scientists that seem to be riveted to one idea, for example, that lactate testing is the be all and end all of performance insights, almost that sampling and reliability should be the blue ribbon Olympic Sport. On a similar note are those that don’t include a performance measure in ‘performance studies’ or on ‘performance athletes, probably because it is the physiology first and foremost that gets the high ranking publications. The SRM crank and ergometer, with its’ 8 embedded force transducers, at least for cycling, gives such a performance test through every pedal revolution. If you have power and torque data on tap then physiology becomes a second priority, because beyond technique, any development that aims to improve performance is judged by the power outputs performed and the resultant movement speed. It was SRM that led this market, it was SRM that British Cycling embraced and at this point I should flag up that other reputable brands are on the market, that I am not sponsored by them* and I would hazard a guess that if SRM hadn't produced power cranks, British Cycling would have found a way to measure in the same way. Sports scientist have used these cranks to do some light engineering  with their outputs of power and torque vs cadence relationships. Ostensibly they have served as the outcome measure for everything and anything in cycling, bilateral symmetries, caffeine ingestion, cooling, carbohydrate ingestion, etc etc,   but in the applied setting the test->intervene->re-test cycle is so elegantly effective and achievable in either the controlled laboratory environment or the controlled velodrome environment that it has become the bedrock of the detailed training, physical preparation and performance based decision making in the sport. It goes without saying that athletes need to put in the hard graft in the first place, and SRM’s don’t make a sport, and more importantly it is redundant without those with skills to delve, analyse, interpret and apply that brings data to life. Peter Keen, Simon Jones (@jonessimon2000), Andrea Wooles, Matt Parker, Scott Gardner (dr_asgardner), Paul Barratt, Dave Bailey, Jonathan Leeder, Esme Taylor (@esmet1985), Len Parker Simpson and Tim Kerrison to name the cast (as well as many others in other sports, private coaching systems and around the world).
When I first drafted this Top 10 list I had altitude and warm-up at the top of the list, but when you step back from what has been the most significant change in the landscape of British sport – cycling has been the most successful development of them all. An inherent part of that development is the humble force transducer that gets the living daylights smashed out of it by those hugely powerful athletes in Manchester, from which so much is trialled and tested. It has allowed the sport to springboard forward with the assurance of solid objective measures to such an extent that who knows if it would have been able to core out such a large space in the public’s affections without such a device.
So I put it to you that the applications of power, torque and cadence data of an SRM crank is the number 1 in my top 10 applications of sports physiology. It serves as the gold standard within cycling and maybe one day we will have an SRM equivalent in running, swimming, kayaking etc, because it is that level of detail with which sports need to be truly objective in their measurement of preparation and performance methods. It has done so in cycling and has played its part in changing the mood, activity and interests of a nation.
PS. As of last year I have a road bike and I absolutely love it, not least because I have lost 6 kg!